Considering the rate at which Steely Dan has toured over the past ten years, it’s easy to forget this is a band that famously didn’t tour during their hey day. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were content for the Dan to be a “studio band” after a brief period of touring in 1972 through 1974. It took a 1993 reunion for Steely Dan to hit the road and ever since the band has embarked on a number of lengthy tours including this year’s “Mood Swings: 8 Miles to Pancake Day” excursion which came to a close at NYC’s Beacon Theatre on Tuesday night after 53 shows.
Tuesday night’s show was billed as “Greatest Hits Night,” and Steely Dan held true to the theme by delivering one classic rock-jazz romp after another to the delight of a capacity crowd. Becker and Fagen, who went through over 40 musicians in creating their iconic studio creations in the ’70s, seem to have settled in on the ideal backing band containing master musicians who can handle whatever’s thrown at them. The incredibly talented musicians show off their skills from the moment they take the stage with a cover of Gerry Mulligan’s “Blueport” before Fagen, Becker and the Borderline Brats female vocalists emerge. Of particular note, drummer Keith Carlock is one of the best in the business and left jaws on the floor throughout the set, while guitarist Jon Herington laid down one insane solo after another and trombonist Jim Pugh showed why Becker and Fagen broke their “no trombone” rule for him.
The Dan was in fine form for their finale and even though the tour had seen the band stick to extremely similar setlists from night to night, the group had a few surprises in store for the tour closer. “FM (No Static At All)” was performed for only the third time on the tour, while the Brats-sung “Dirty Work” was played for just the second time on the tour. Of course, Steely Dan also presented much of the material they’ve performed at most shows on the jaunt as a whopping 11 songs from Tuesday night’s set were played at least 50 times on the tour. Yet, when the ensemble returned for the encore they had one more trick up their sleeves. Following a take on “Kid Charlemagne” that had served as the encore for nearly every show on the tour with the exception of Royal Scam night, Becker raised his arms and cued the band to begin the title track from 1974’s Pretzel Logic. The tour debut of “Pretzel Logic,” which was played flawlessly, closed out a tour Becker had earlier said he “wished went on forever.”
The show wasn’t without its flaws as Fagen had a hard time hitting the high notes, but overall the power of Steely Dan’s compositions and talent of the band’s hired hands provided an impressive evening of live music. Even the typically staid Steely Dan audience couldn’t resist the funky breaks and catchy rhythms as many in the crowd were on their feet for the outstanding “Josie,” “Peg,” “My Old School,” “Reelin’ In The Years” sequence that ended the main set along with the encore.
Now that Steely Dan has settled on a lineup, here’s hoping they continue to hit the road each year.
Steely Dan Tour Finale Setlist:
Set: Blueport, Your Gold Teeth, Aja, Hey Nineteen, Show Biz Kids, Black Cow, Black Friday, Time Out Of Mind, Deacon Blues, Bodhisattva, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, FM (No Static At All), Dirty Work, Don’t Take Me Alive, Joe Tex, Josie, Peg, My Old School, Reelin’ In The Years
Encore: Kid Charlemagne, Pretzel Logic, Untouchables Theme