Monday, November 9, 2009

Steely Dan Minneapolis Concert Review and Setlist

I attended Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act Steely Dan's latest concert in Minneapolis. This tour, they're focusing on two classic albums played in their entity - Aja and The Royal Scam. While both are classics, Aja is a top 10 album of all time for me, and to get a chance to hear them play it in order sounded like a real treat.

Sam Yahel's trio opened. I'm not a big Hammond organ guy - it all sounds like Booker T and the MG's to me (and don't get me wrong - I like Booker). While the trio was tight, this jazz based organ was lost on me.

As you can tell I had great seats again (6th row) so I was able to get a good look at the band. Donald Fagen looked like he had gained a ton of weight, whereas Walter Becker looked more fit than he's looked in the past. The rest of the band appeared quite young, with the exception of a few.

Onto the review and the setlist


Black Cow - an all time favorite, played well by the band, but Fagen forgot words. This ticked me off, and was not a good way to start.

Aja - A beautiful song, and their rendering did it justice. Wonderful.

Deacon Blues - Another huge favorite, and again Fagen forgets words. By this time I'm pissed and wondering if he's drunk, senile, or doesn't care. He's only been playing that song for about 30 years or so. For the first time ever at a concert, I heckle. I can't believe that I shelled out $125 to hear Fagen stumble through songs that everyone else in the audience can sing just fine.

Peg - A good rendition, and Fagen is noticeably into the lyrics sheet on his organ.

Home At Last - The band killed this song. Ordinarily this is not a favorite, but Fagen's interplay with the backup vocalists (who were impeccable) hit this out of the park

I Got The News - Another huge surprise at how well this sounded. Again, the backup vocalists carry this one.

Josie - Funky treatment. Fagen finally appears into it.

With Aja completed, we now moved into some other favorites. Here they are, to the best of my recollection:

Time Out of Mind - Very well executed. Gaucho is another album they could have done, and this is a classic off of that.

Bodhisattva - Another classic. It is now uncomfortable for me as Becker has resigned himself to playing basically just rhythm guitar. That's OK as John Harrington is an incredible guitarist, and actually takes these songs to a new level.

Daddy Don't Live in That NY City - Becker on lead vocals. Ugh. A total throw away. Band hated it, audience hated it, not good at all.

Babylon Sisters - Slight tweak in the chorus made this really special. Outstanding.

Hey 19 - Great rap by Becker in the late part of the song to introduce "the Cuervo Gold."

Black Friday - Just OK rendition of OK song.

Show Business Kids - Really original rework of a classic. Tough to recognize as the same song. Really, really good.

Dirty Work - Background singers take lead on this one. Very nicely done.

Don't Take Me Alive - Feels weird without Becker cranking the guitar.

My Old School - Standard treatment. Not much here.

Kid Charlemagne - Same as above

Reeling In the Years - The encore, and a version that is very true to the original. Really fun to hear, and had the place rocking.

While the start was slow, that was the part that I was there to see, so I'm still not overjoyed. I literally spent most of Aja watching Fagen and looking for him to screw up. I was so ticked with Deacon Blues that I seriously thought about leaving at that point and asking for my money back. Thankfully Fagan pulled it together, and I was so incredibly impressed by the job the band did. What an outstanding group of musicians.

At the end, I'm glad I went, but I think it is fair to say I've seen my last Steely Dan show.
Thanks, guys, for decades of musical genious.


  1. I was there last night too (though, sadly, in the very back row of the balcony). Fagen missing lyrics got me pretty miffed too. I can understand forgetting lyrics to 30-year-old songs you've just dusted off, but this tour's been going on for months.

    I think Fagen, and maybe the band as a whole, is not into the full album schtick anymore, but they're stuck with it. Everyone seemed to have more energy once that part was over. Fagen even made a wise crack about it.

    "Show Biz Kids" was the one that really blew me away. Wow. I wish I had a recording of this version. Other highlights for me were "Aja" (the song) and "Bodhisattva." The band was phenomenal.

    I really loved the little joke with the backup singer flipping the record over between "Deacon Blues" and "Peg." Clever. I noticed her with the turntable at the very beginning of the show, too, but from my vantage I couldn't tell what she was doing.

  2. room34,

    Thanks for the post. Your take on things improving once Aja was over is spot on. I agree completely as well on Show Biz Kids - it'd be great to have a download of that somewhere.

    The record deal is actually something tht Aussie Pink Floyd did as part of their tour. They had a cartoon kangaroo putting on albums and the band would take it from there. Would have thought Dan more original had I not just seen the same deal a month or two before.

    Thanks for stopping by and posting up.

  3. Never seen them live, but I'm stoked to see the Royal Scam show at Massey Hall in a couple of weeks. I guess you'd be 'miffed' about a lyrical fumble if you'd seen them 10 times, or if you're a Dan-head, but I'm excited either way. Seems to me that, even at a half effort, these guys would level the building they're playing in.

  4. CH,

    I'm envious that you'll see the Royal Scam. It is a total classic. Please report back and let us know how the show was.

    Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by and posting up.


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