Review: Winwood steals Steely Dan show

By Amy Shanks
Hawkes Bay Today

HAWKES BAY, New Zealand — American rock/jazz stars Steely Dan were in Hawke’s Bay on Saturday for the last performance on the final leg of their world tour, but for all the hype surrounding them the atmosphere fell flat when they took the stage.

Vocalist Donald Fagen, dressed casually in a green hoody and jeans, still had that unforgettable voice, though the overall performance was far from memorable.

One concert-goer who had seen Steely Dan live 30 years ago, commented that this time around all their songs sounded identical.

“It’s got that real big-band sound, all the songs sound the same. I am sure it wasn’t like that last time I saw them.”

Another yelled out, “Play something we all know … try harder.”

People travelled from all over the country to see Steely Dan in the beautiful outdoor setting of Church Road Winery. And while the performance could not be faulted musically — with talented back-up singers, a brass section and Fagen’s signature gravelly voice — they lacked stage presence.

People who had been up dancing to opening act Steve Winwood did nothing more than sway in their seats when Steely Dan came on. The odd die-hard fan tried to keep grooving but it was clear even they did not know many of the newer tunes being played.

Interesting interludes by Walter Becker, Steely Dan’s second core member, were perhaps some of the most entertaining parts of the show. Hamming it up for the crowd, Becker told stories that got everyone laughing.

Certainly, “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” and “Reelin’ in the Years” gave people a taste of the Steely Dan they knew and loved. But for some it was too little, too late, with many leaving well before the end of the concert.

There were a lot of Steve Winwood fans in the audience and he got a huge reception when he appeared after Anika Moa had warmed up the crowd.

Winwood tailored his set to suit the audience and people loved him for it. Looking around at a dancing, singing crowd, it was obvious he was a sure favourite.

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