Steely Dan

AVA at Casino Del Sol, Tuesday, July 22

Steely Dan--singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker--have always been contrarians. For 35 years, they've played smooth (one of the only instances where I'd use that word flatteringly) jazz-fusion tunes, paired them with lyrics cryptic, caustic, clever and funny, and somehow managed to subversively twist them into impossible pop songs.

That they've scored so many hits over the years is either utterly confounding or not surprising in the least: You don't hear too much jazz-fusion on rock stations, but a great pop hook is a great pop hook.

Those familiar with only those songs that have gotten radio airplay may have been a bit disappointed with Steely Dan's two-hour-plus performance last week. While they turned in faithful renditions of FM staples "Peg," "Josie," "Hey Nineteen" and, um, "FM," they also skipped some of their biggest: There was no "Reelin' in the Years," no "Do It Again" and no "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." Instead, the band stuck mostly to deeper album cuts, including no less than four tracks from 1976's hitless The Royal Scam.

Playing in front of a minimalist but effective Tetris-like LED screen whose images morphed from song to song, this 11-piece version of Steely Dan was as tight as a fat kid's grip on a doughnut. While many songs closely mirrored the album renditions, a good number were reworked and loosened up. "Show Biz Kids" was rendered in a soulful, funked-up version; "I Got the News" gave pianist Jeff Young the chance to not only show off his chops, but, like a great jazz player, inject his own personality while maintaining the song's integrity; "New Frontier," from Fagen's 1982 solo album The Nightfly, was transformed from a sardonic Cold War cautionary tale into a 21st-century one, by virtue of both the times in which we're living and the thousands of marching drones on the video screen.

Fagen's voice, abetted by two lovely backup singers, sounded almost as great as it did 30 years ago, and though he didn't do a whole lot of talking, when he did, he couldn't resist maintaining that contrarian nature. Following "Home at Last," he called for the band to tune up. After a couple of minutes, the jazz-fusion perfectionist was satisfied, calling for things to proceed by declaring, "It's good enough for rock 'n' roll."

Tags: ,

More by Stephen Seigel

  • Soundbites

    Sacred Machine and Topaz say goodbye
    • Mar 20, 2014
  • Soundbites

    Your guide to enjoying music and avoiding drunken morons on St. Patrick's Day
    • Mar 13, 2014
  • Soundbites

    March Radness invades the east end of downtown and more.
    • Mar 6, 2014
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Northern Mights

    Genre-bending, experimental Árstíðir brings comfort in times of distress
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • More than Sukierae

    Tweedy show is a family affair that gives us Jeff without Wilco, Minus 5 and that chill son on drums
    • Mar 19, 2015

The Range

Song of the Day: 'Cosmic Love Song No. 23' by Louise Le Hir

The Lantern Fest: Get Your Shine On

Fill Up On Beer, Bands and Brats at 4thtober Fest

More »

Latest in Live

  • Noise Annoys

    Baby Gas Mask, absurdist soul and prog, plus Chaka!
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • B-Sides: DJQ

    • Jul 28, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Noise Annoys

    Mute Swan and the Curse of Local Hype
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Honky Tonk Girl

    How this Tucson 19-year-old might trip the country electric
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2016 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation