Steely Dan: Wembley Arena

By Samantha Wimsatt
Chimera

LONDON — Modesty prevents me from describing how deeply fetching I looked on this particular evening. Many hours of thought and experimentation preceded my decision to go with a black satin mini, spikes and a low-necked, plum-red sweater, vintage circa 1955 (during the interval Bernard Copland told me I looked like “a concrescense of Lana Turner and Christina Rossetti”). You see, I’ve been hopelessly in love with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and their thrilling, rigorous art since 1988, the year I turned 15.

By the time the principals strolled onstage, I was in a state of unbearable erotic tension. As Mr. Fagen scanned the audience during Wayne Krantz’s solo on the opening song, “Do It Again,” his eyes (so I imagined) focused on me (could he see past the glare of the stage lights?) and I felt as if I had been caught straight out in the commission of some ripping perversion. As the set progressed, song by incredible song, I realized that the breathless reports of my American girlfriends could never have prepared me for the overwhelming, almost frightening sexual power that emanates from Becker and Fagen in the flesh.

I have always loved the classic “Josie” with its faux-sacred guitar introduction and feverish tropes. Nevertheless, Tuesday night’s version, driven by Ricky Lawson’s rolling percussion and helped over the top by Mr. Becker’s thrusting guitar stabs, was nothing less than a revelation, producing — certainly in the warm secret center of this reporter — novel and multiple frissons. Sliding into “Babylon Sisters,” that sensual opium dream of a song, the music attained an excruciating level of intensity that was relieved only by the announcement of a brief emission, I mean, intermission.

The second half began with a plunge into dark waters through which dangerous creatures glide: “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” and “Glamour Profession.” On this last tune, I felt the very physical effect of Tom Barney’s punching bassline particularly in the taut muscles of my upper thighs and buttocks. During “Chain Lightning,” I became fascinated with the stylized, swaying movements of Michelle Wiley and Caroline Leonhart, the two marvelous backup singers. With their sleek, sensual bodies wrapped in silver and black, they projected, with long limbs and glistening red mouths, a palpable Manhattan cool, a bracing duality of authority and submission. My lower back stiffened near to spasm as wanton imagination sketched a series of dark tableaux featuring yrs. truly, D.F., W.B., and these two iconic urban succubi.

Nor did the giddy crescendo of songs from Aja bring release, nor did “Kid Charlemagne,” nor the ecstatic encore. Such craving as mine can never be quenched, not after this taste of God’s (or Satan’s) honey. I can only pray that, on some future visit, or perhaps in the course of one of my frequent trips to New York City, the ultimate fantasy might, on some magical night of the lotus, be willed into the real world.

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