By Liz Braun
For two spectacular hours on Saturday night, Steely Dan brought their unique blend of rock, R&B and jazz to happy fans at the Sony Centre.
The band stepped up and tossed off “Black Cow,” “Aja” and “Hey Nineteen” for openers, finally getting people in the crowd up and dancing in their seats by the third song.
Original Dans Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were backed by an impressive band described by Becker as, “The best we ever had — they can rock the house,” and that’s exactly what they proceeded to do.
Early on, Becker offered a rambling and very funny speech to the audience, an extended “Hello Toronto” that began, “It’s pretty much the end of the summer.”
What sounded like a meditation on age and time somehow turned into a comic riff on freak weather and tequila; thereafter, everyone went back to the task at hand and the show resumed with “Black Friday,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “Show Biz Kids,” each song punctuated by jaw-dropping solos. Did we mention that the Steely Dan band — eight musicians, three vocalists — is electrifying?
Particular standouts are guitarist Jon Herington and saxophonist Walt Weiskopf. And Keith Carlock on drums. And everybody else.
Most of the players have been a part of the Steely Dan world for over a decade.
La Tanya Hall, Carolyn Leonhart and Cindy Mizelle, amusingly referred to as “The Danettes” by Donald Fagen, were the backup singers; just how huge a misnomer that is becomes obvious after these women shared lead vocals on “Dirty Work.”
Saturday’s show included songs such as “Janie Runaway,” “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More” (with Becker on lead laconic vocals) “Babylon Sisters,” “Josie” and “Peg.” With “Peg,” some kind of Canadian reserve dam broke, inspiring various baby boomers to get up and rush into the aisles to dance. This did not sit well with security, who wanted people kept back from the stage; that left a handful of young guys on security detail wrangling concert miscreants the same age as their parents.
“My Old School” and “Reelin’ In The Years” were big crowd pleasers, as was “Kid Charlemagne.”
Opening the show at the Sony Centre: Bobby Broom and his trio, The Bobby Broom Organi-Sation.
It’s still surreal to see Steely Dan in concert. Even though they tour regularly now, it should be remembered that these guys were heard but not seen during at least 20 of the 40 years they’ve been around. For all the complex lyrics and yearning harmonies, the overall result is still exhilaration.