To say the least, my first Steely Dan show at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Friday night was something of a personal milestone — a chance shout out my passion for quirky time signatures and saxophone solos from the rooftops, a moment to embrace guitar chords that would have left Kurt Cobain speechless (may he rest in peace).
Founded in the early 1970s by core members Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, Steely Dan grew a loyal following as sort of the antidote to the decade's mainstream hard rock and disco. Not without some band conflict, their heady lyrics and complex writing style has survived well into the 21st century and continues to garner critical acclaim and even Grammy nominations.
I freely admit to having built up the concert in my head, leaving me slightly disappointed with the overall set list.
I freely admit to having built up Friday's concert in my head, leaving me slightly disappointed with the overall set list. No "Doctor Wu." No "Any Major Dude Will Tell You." And, much to my chagrin, no "Fez."
That said, Steely Dan's choice of leaning towards later, more sophisticated songs was a nice surprise. The ultra-jazzy "Babylon Sisters" and "Time out of Mind" — both from 1980s' Gaucho, the band's last album before breaking up and reuniting more than a decade later — brought an mellow edge to a show that fit well with Becker's laid back conversations with the audience.
The pervy-but-entertaining "Hey Nineteen" from the same album was easily one of the crowd's favorite songs of the night. Click here for Rashida Jones' childhood memories of the track, revealed during a recent NPR interview. A rockin' version of "Bodhisattva" (a snarky jab at the '70s-era new age movement) proved another highlight with concert-goers, along with a roadhouse blues version of "Black Friday."
The evening closed with a greatest hits rundown that started with "Josie" and "Peg" from the Steely Dan's 1977 magnum opus Aja, an album the band has played in its entirely at a recent concert in Los Angeles. From there, it was "My Old School" about Becker and Fagan's time at Bard College in New York and then onto the '73 chart-topper "Reelin' in the Years."
New to Steely Dan? Give "The Fez" a listen — it'll change your life. Otherwise, check out this full concert playlist.