By Grace Wilson
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Steely Dan promised an other-worldly experience at the UNO Lakefront Arena on Saturday (July 26) during their “Jamalot Ever After” tour.
“As long as the building doesn’t take off, we’ll be in good shape,” said co-pilot Walter Becker. The spaceship-esque Arena stayed grounded, but as the concert progressed, the near-sellout crowd couldn’t keep seated.
Becker, frontman and longtime music partner Donald Fagen and 11 other supporting band members and vocalists kicked off a two-hour set with “Your Gold Teeth,” one of several rare hits of the evening.
“Black Cow,” from the platinum-selling and Grammy-winning album, Aja, gave way to an extended version of the album’s title track with Fagen on the melodica — the small hand-held keyboard with a blowhole that creates a signature sound.
Every musician literally had their moment in the spotlight as simple, but striking, green and yellow lights highlighted soloists and multicolored strobe lights emanated from the bass drums during Keith Carlock’s impressive riffs.
Becker had the audience fully engaged during a five-minute monologue (or as NOLA.com Facebook fan Dana Usie Cooke described as a “funny rant”) that included mentions of shoe boxes, Chiba Chiba, condos, smoking, drinking, lady friends, Listerine, death, royalties and Heaven.
When a golden elixir was mentioned, a cry of Cuervo Gold came up from fans and “Hey Nineteen” (from 1980’s Gaucho) wrapped up. “Black Friday” (from 1975’s Katy Lied) featured Jon Herington, who, like trumpet player Michael Leonhart and trombone player Jim Pugh, has been with Steely Dan since 2000. Saxophone solos from Walt Weiskopf and Roger Rosenberg played heavy roles before “Show Biz Kids (Countdown to Ecstasy, 1973).
Fagen hopped back on the melodica for “Time Out of Mind” (from Gaucho) and sat down again at the keyboard introducing one of the night’s highest points with a song about falling for a New Orleans girl, rarely heard in Steely Dan’s live performances. “Pearl of the Quarter” (from Countdown to Ecstasy) proved to be a favorite of the night as New Orleanians and those who had traveled from afar all chorused “voulez, voulez, voulez-vous?”
“It’s great to be here in the city of the birth of jazz,” Fagen said, as he went into “Green Earrings” (from 1976’s The Royal Scam), yet another obscure hit.