Shows I’ll Never Forget: Steely Dan, September 8, 2013

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At St. Augustine Amphitheatre, St. Augustine, Florida: What we saw is not easy to explain.

Take some lyrics — like what Walt Whitman would have written if he drove a taxi in post-apocalyptic Manhattan: a blend of melodic graffiti, fedora poetry, carbon-fiber dreams, tales of tropical disease and fruit, love songs translated into NY and LA drugs and sex code — and bread them in a thick layer of matzoh-crumb irony (no, more irony, more) then roast on an old TV antenna over a Bowery dumpster-fire and serve over a bed of what we will call “music.” Forget the generic tag of jazzy rockblues; think Duke Ellington on freebase, symphonic singable hooky badass witty explosive “pop” music that — unfortunately? — everyone heard on the radio enough to remember exactly 1/4 of the words, delivered by a big band of Jedi musicians, four punching horns, a drummer and bass player joined by a groove umbilicus, three gyrating angel singers, a stunt guitarist and savant pianist.

That’s Steely Dan 2013. Even the crescent moon peeked out to watch. Best show of the year.

Donald Fagen wears sunglasses at night, and a clown-vomit tie, and drinks often from a suspiciously tiny cup — rocket-fuel cognac? Manischewitz? — and sings with his head lolling on his right shoulder, slumped at the Fender Rhodes like a mashup of Ray Charles and Stephen Hawking. Walter Becker stands beside him, with even less middle-aged hair than last time, like Garrison Keillor in the Wild Bunch, and still plays Corinthian blues — like Hubert Sumlin, fractured bebop blues fills dropped in the cracks between lyrics, as Fagen comes up for air, all the wrong notes twisted to just right. And Jon Herington will be explained when I’ve had a nap and a sandwich. No guitarist has played such impossible lines as effortlessly.

A body of work like this is hard to find. The Mood Swings Tour is medicinal.

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Setlist for Steely Dan, St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 2013:
Blueport
(Gerry Mulligan cover) (Bipolar Allstars only)
Your Gold Teeth
Aja
Hey Nineteen
(Walter Becker rap)
Show Biz Kids
Black Cow
Black Friday
Time Out of Mind
Godwhacker
Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More
(Walter Becker lead vocal)
Bodhisattva
Razor Boy
(Borderline Brats vocal)
Babylon Sisters
I Want to (Do Everything for You)
(Joe Tex cover) (Walter Becker band intros)
Josie
Peg
My Old School
Reelin’ in the Years
Encore:
Kid Charlemagne
Untouchables Theme
(Nelson Riddle cover) (Bipolar Allstars only)

Scott Russell

Scott Russell

Scott Russell leads a double life, practicing law, playing music with ouijabrothers.com, and working on a novel, "An Illustrated History of Combustion." He lives with his wife, three children, and a dog named Midas, beneath the Mason Dixon line. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Scott Russell
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