Favorite

Live 

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 »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top 5! This week: Jim Waters
    • Mar 29, 2018
  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top Five Six! This Week: Sweethearts of the Rodeo
    • Feb 8, 2018

The Range

Laughing Stock: Best of Baby Fish Mouth

UA Has Plenty of Cool Attractions for Summer

More »

Latest in Live

  • Nightcrawler

    A few choice music shows to catch this week.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top 5! This week: Street Dogs
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • For Your Love

    Yardbird Jim McCarty is no spring chicken, but he’s still rocking
    • May 31, 2018
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2018 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation