Steely Dan Still Old School

By Jane Stevenson
Toronto Sun

TORONTO — Donald Fagen, one half of ’70s rock innovators Steely Dan, couldn’t help noticing the slow-setting sun during the band’s concert last night (6/27/2000) at the Molson Amphitheatre — their second ever in T.O.

“It’s day here for a long time huh?” said Fagen, 52, looking cool in shades and a black leather jacket behind his Fender Rhodes piano.

“I hope it gets dark soon,” he chuckled, only half kidding.

Seems the daylight worked against Steely Dan’s striking set of pulled white sheets onto which various lights and images were projected as the 21-song evening progressed.

Eventually, the planets co-operated and Fagen — touring with band partner and guitarist Walter Becker in support of their latest album, Two Against Nature — had his blessed night to show off what turned out to be a striking light show.

In the meantime, much like Don Henley’s similarly well-executed, if passion-less, show at the Amphitheatre a few weeks back, Fagen and Becker suffered from a decided lack of showmanship.

No matter how good musicians these guys are — and they are good — nothing could compensate for the studio-like way in which they delivered song after song.

Guess what, fellas? There are 8,000 people in front of you and they paid good money to see you perform.

Maybe Steely Dan should check out some of the crowd-pleasing bands that have covered their songs on the Me, Myself & Irene soundtrack — Wilco, Smash Mouth and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Fortunately, Fagen and Becker brought with them a solid eight-piece band and three female backup singers — whom Becker said provided the “visual appeal” quotient.

Still, the rhythm section of drummer Ricky Lawson and bassist Tom Barney should also not go unmentioned.

Lawson, who just won Modern Drumming magazine’s drummer of the year award (in the R&B category), provided an exciting beat, while the fast-fingered Barney – – also the co-musical director of last night’s show — had no problem keeping up.

As for their choice of songs, Fagen and Becker played a mere four selections from Two Against Nature. Given it is their first album of original material in almost 20 years, you’d think there might be better representation.

Instead, they sprinkled older, more obscure tunes amongst hits like Josie, Deacon Blues, Dirty Work, Peg, My Old School and FM.

WHAT THEY PLAYED:

Boston Rag
Bodhisattva
Night By Night
Janie Runaway
Josie
Black Friday
Daddy Won’t Live In The New York City
Bad Sneakers
Jack Of Speed
West Of Hollywood

INTERMISSION

Hank’s Pad
Royal Scam
Deacon Blues
Cousin Dupree
Monkey In Your Soul
Dirty Work
Peg
Kid Charlemagne
Don’t Take Me Alive

ENCORES:

My Old School
FM
‘Studio-like Dan!’

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