By JASON MACNEIL
TORONTO — It might have taken them a month longer than anticipated, but Steely Dan’s breezy ’70s sound rounded out the Molson Amphitheatre’s summer schedule on a high note.
Originally set for mid-August, the show was postponed due to the blackout.
It was something not lost on the core tandem of keyboardist and vocalist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker.
“There were times this year when we thought this show was never going to happen,” Becker told the generally older crowd filling two-thirds of the seats. “We’re so glad it did!”
The concert, which included a 20-minute intermission, kicked off with the instrumental “Cubano Chant” followed by “Aja,” the title track from the band’s legendary album. Fagen, seated at his Fender Rhodes organ, was in fine form early and often.
Steely Dan’s sound mixes jazz with rock and funk for a mellow sound that thankfully doesn’t bore one to tears.
But they aren’t exactly arena-rock tunes. Early songs such as “Time Out Of Mind” and “The Caves Of Altamira” (not the insurance company) had the crowd tapping toes or swaying in their seats.
Perhaps the strongest part of the evening was the group’s ensemble.
Featuring four horn players, three female backing singers and four other seasoned musicians, the studio-perfect sound rarely faltered throughout the two-hour set.
Guitarist Jon Herington had several shining moments, including solos during “Peg” and also on “Parker’s Band.” Pianist Ted Baker was also the wings under Fagen’s sails for the evening, particularly on the introduction to “Black Cow.”
There were a few drawbacks to the show though. The one-two punch of “Babylon Sisters” and “Slang Of Ages” took the steam out of the show. Becker’s lead vocal on the latter track left something to be desired, speaking the lyrics more than singing them.
As well, the second half of the show found the band plowing through one song after another quite quickly. “Janie Runaway” seamlessly went into “Hey Nineteen,” one of the several crowd pleasers. It was as if they either had a plane to catch or, bitten once by the blackout, were still a bit gunshy about taking their time.
The homestretch of the show featured the reggae-tinted “Haitian Divorce” with Becker and Fagen occasionally acting like conductors to the supporting cast.
“Lunch With Gina” kept the momentum going as its funky dance beat had most dancing in their seats. It also featured two females flashing the group in vain in the venue’s 200 level.
The last few numbers included “Josie” followed by the groove-heavy “Kid Charlemagne” and “Don’t Take Me Alive.”
A brief encore ensued and included “My Old School.”