Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

410

Reeling In the Years: Steely Dan at Mud Island, Memphis, Tennessee

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Steely Dan
Mud Island
Memphis, Tennessee
August 14, 2009


The only relationship Steely Dan had with the 1970s was the temporal fact of having existed and been popular then. The band's music was always light years ahead of its time. Intelligent, inventive, and way too clever, Steely Dan's music could have just as easily been created now, or for that matter, well in the future.

"Reeling in the Years" from the 1972 recording Can't Buy A Thrill competed with the likes of, on one hand, Don McLean's "American Pie," Derek and the Dominoes "Layla," and Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and, on the other hand, The Looking Glass' "Brandy," America's "Ventura Highway" and The New Seekers' "I'd Like to Teach The World to Sing." Steely Dan has always been the odd band out: too smart for their own good but with music virally popular...what Adult Contemporary Jazz is in Heaven.

As a nostalgia motor, Steely Dan is superior to its peers then and now for having been so musically and lyrically rich that the band's corpus effortlessly became a working part of the late Baby Boomers' collective subconscious. "Peg" and "Hey Nineteen" blissfully infect adult awareness and bounce around the auditory-cortical highway like radioactive neurotransmitters wreaking havoc in the pleasure centers.

So, it was to a crowd of 5,000 such said late Baby Boomers that Steely Dan appeared at Memphis' Mud Island Amphitheater on the Mississippi River, Friday, August 14 on the band's "Rent Party '09" tour. Much of this American tour had been devoted to complete performances of individual albums, which were always events when first released in the '70s. However, Mud Island was a general show with an incomplete smattering from across the band's repertoire.

The working end of Steely Dan, Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, had a reputation in the 1970s of being much better in the studio than on stage. This in part led to the band's late '70s moratorium on live appearances. To be sure, Steely Dan's music was always intricate and multilayered, difficult to reproduce. But with the technological evolution of the last 30 years, the band has put together a splendid show with many surprises and keen artistic touches.

To bring their signature sound to the stage, Fagan and Becker assembled a band of eleven, including a four-piece horn section (baritone and tenor saxophones, trumpet and trombone), a raging lead guitarist in Jon Herington, supplementing Walter Becker's sinewy Fender Stratocaster, and über-drummer and Mississippi native Keith Carlock, whose thundering presence could be felt in the Peabody Hotel Bar.

The show opened with a funky introduction, whose coda included the two principals coming on stage and performing a completely revamped "Reeling in the Years," transposed into the minor and slowed down in the same manner as Bruce Hornsby's recent reworkings of "Mandolin Rain." Compellingly arranged as a slow funk burn, this "Reeling" provided a grand contrast to the searing original version. Wouldn't it be cool for the band to then close the show with the original?
The set list (below) reveals a fairly even distribution across the band's 1970s corpus. There were notable exclusions: "Bodhisattva," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," "Deacon Blues," "My Old School," and "FM" would have been dandy additions to the concert in place of the single repertoire mistake, Walter Becker's lead vocal on "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" (great guitarist and MC who needs to keep his day job).
Steely Dan purists would have been offended by the minor re-harmonizations Becker and Fagan effected on their old material. Better these re-imaginings be evidence of professionals at the top of their craft, producing their music on their own terms brilliantly. And yes, the band did close with the original version of "Reeling in the Years" making this a memorable and exciting performance.

Set List: Introduction; Reelin' in the Years (New Version); Time Out of Mind; Green Earrings; Bad Sneakers; Black Friday; Aja; Black Cow; Parker's Band; Babylon Sisters; Daddy Don't Live in that New York City No More; Do It Again; Home at Last; Any Major Dude Will Tell You; Peg; Josie; Hey Nineteen; Kid Charlemagne; Encore—Reelin' in the Years (Original Version).

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read "Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic
by Phillip Woolever
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo" Live Reviews Mat Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovitch at Korzo
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Jazz Jantar 2017" Live Reviews Jazz Jantar 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: December 21, 2017
Read "Daniel Bennett Group at Tomi Jazz" Live Reviews Daniel Bennett Group at Tomi Jazz
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola" Live Reviews Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: September 7, 2017