As I walked out of the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie late Saturday night, I commented that Steely Dan sure featured some good musicians. "Great musicians, you mean," said my father-in-law. "Those guys were great."
And so they were. Some four decades after Walter Becker and Donald Fagen first decided to form a band named after a dildo, the duo, plus a large entourage of supporting musicians, is still capable of thrilling a packed house of folks looking to go back, jack, and reel in the years.
During the '70s, Becker and Fagen spoke often about disliking live performance. They were master sound manipulators, musical scientists who did their best work locked away in some secret studio. These days, with album releases much more sporadic than back in the day, the pair has honed the live show into a magical two hours of perfection.
Featuring a four man horn section along with a trio of backup singers, a second keyboardist and guitarist plus the required bassist and drummer, Steely Dan sounded like four bands flawlessly messed together. Beginning with a jumping cover of Gerry Mulligan's "Blueport," Fagen led the large ensemble through the Steely Dan back catalogue. Hits ("Reeling in the Years," "Hey Nineteen") were intermingled with solid and well appreciated deep cuts ("Razor Boy," "GodWhacker").
Interestingly, two of the band's biggest hits, "Do it Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," were left off the set list. No one in the crowd seemed to care, as each and every song was greeted with thunderous applause. Whether it was the ominous thunder of "Black Friday" or the comforting jazz rock of "Peg" or "Josie," each note was played with such passion and attention to detail that it mattered little what didn't make the list.