Band Brings New Life to Old Favorites

By Dave Ferman
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DALLAS — Even a serious Steely Dan fan was probably surprised when the group embarked on its first full-length reunion tour nearly 10 years ago.

The Dan (guitarist/vocalist Walter Becker and keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen) were known throughout the ’70s for creating ultrasmooth, tuneful jazz-pop — and then not going on the road to promote their hugely successful records. But since that first comeback tour in the ’90s, the pair — and a large cast of support musicians — have toured more often than they ever did when songs such as “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Peg” were constantly heard on the radio.

And although the band’s recorded music remains as creamy and slickly studio-honed as ever, Dan fans are now assured of seeing live career summaries every couple of years.

This year’s Steely Dan road show came to the Smirnoff Music Centre on Sunday night behind the band’s latest CD, the recently released “Everything Must Go.” Though the band played a few selections from that CD and 2000’s “Two Against Nature,” Becker and Fagen wisely stuck mainly to the old favorites, including most of “Aja.” Sunday’s show was just about all any Dan fan could ask for: excellent sound, a little bit of Becker and Fagen’s droll humor and fresh versions of such songs as “Black Cow” and “Babylon Sisters” that had more punch than their original versions.

Particular highlights were “Aja,” which included an inspiring sax solo by Walt Weiskopf, and “Peg,” which found Jon Herington improving on the LP’s extended guitar solo.

It’s to the band’s credit that it made even the relatively weak new material, such as this year’s “Godwhacker,” sound far more lively than it is on record. That song, in particular, had a more aggressive groove and bite than on the CD and featured solos by all four of the band’s horn players — Weiskopf, Cornelius Bumpus, Michael Leonhart and Jim Pugh.

By sticking to what they and their fans know best, and surrounding themselves with excellent musicians, Becker and Fagen continue to offer a far livelier evening of music than we would have ever suspected back in the ’70s, when they were considered rock ‘n’ roll’s most famous hermits.

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