Steely Dan lets fans in on the act

Band will play single-album, all-request shows

Not too long ago, those who wanted to hear a favorite album had to do it the old-fashioned way — by cueing it up on the stereo. And while, in recent times, rock acts including Brian Wilson with “Pet Sounds” and Van Morrison with “Astral Weeks” have satisfied fans’ needs to hear classic albums by playing those discs end-to-end in concert, now, the once stage-shy Steely Dan has taken the concept to the next level.

In the coming weeks, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker will do a series of shows — in Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — with nights devoted to performing different albums: “Aja,” “Gaucho” and the seminal, but rarely aired 1976 disc “The Royal Scam.”

And, in another surprise for a band often perceived as distant and insular, an added lure for longtime fans will be all-request performances, for which the public can register votes through either TicketMaster or MSG Entertainment, which is promoting all but the L.A. dates.

“In Boston alone, the Internet request night, which they’re calling ‘Taking It to the Seats,’ has tallied more than 120,000 votes, so it’s clearly a very active and loyal fan base,” says Bob Shea, senior VP of regional booking and special projects at MSG.

MSG has put together a 30-minute promotional special — including rare live footage and interview segments — that will be part of a cross-platform effort to tubthump the shows. The promo piece will air July 14 on the company’s New York-area MSG network and nationally on Fuse, as well as on the company’s website.The combined efforts have been rewarded by the band’s fans. Four dates have been added to the four originally scheduled for Gotham’s Beacon Theater, beginning July 28, while the three slated for the Chicago Theater and Boston’s Wang Center, where the shows kick off July 22, are in great demand. A Windy City ticket broker says these shows “are getting at least twice as much interest as the last couple of times Steely Dan came to town,” including the band’s Rent Party ’09 tour.

Shea sees the classic album trend as having legs, and says Steely Dan is a particularly good example of a band capable of pulling it off.

“To be able to experience an album like ‘Aja’ from start to finish in a classic theater is something people have shown a huge interest in,” he says. “And to have the band doing several different shows makes it even more unique.”

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