Delivering ‘The Original Classic Thing’

By Scott Stiffler
New York City Informer

They haven’t given us any new studio tracks since 2003’s Everything Must Go — but the sun isn’t even close to setting on the sleek, sharp, intellectually stimulating band that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen named for an instrument of pleasure referenced in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.

Like that late cultural outlaw’s work, the aging but very much alive Steely Dan knows how to wrap doomsday nihilism, lecherous appetites, deadpan observations and a defiant party mentality into an addictive form that goes to work fast and has impressive staying power.

The NYC stop on their “Mood Swings 2013: 8 Miles To Pancake Day” tour finds the band performing albums in their entirety (Aja, The Royal Scam, Gaucho) as well as an audience request night and an evening devoted to hits from the four-decade Steely Dan catalog. Eight brilliant supporting musicians (The Bipolar Allstars) and three sublime backup singers (The Borderline Brats) provide able assistance to Becker and Fagen, assuring this will be more than a note-for-note tribute.

Mind you, a repeat of past glories isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, the wholesale album and best-of format promised by “Mood Swings” is pretty much what they brought to town the last time around — but for those who saw Steely Dan back in 2011, a return to form is just what the prescription-happy doctor ordered.

I caught the last night of that run — and although the scent wafting through the Beacon Theatre was more Ben Gay than Mary Jane, the band’s AARP-eligible fans (and “Hey Nineteen” newbies) got the potent and lasting buzz they were craving.

That makes attendance at this upcoming run essential on the part of those who (to quote a line from “Negative Girl”) will never lose their appetite for “The original classic thing — more of the same.”

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