The show, running 150 minutes including intermission, blended hits as wellas obscure and new numbers from past and future Dan albums and Fagen and Becker’s solo projects.
Amusingly, for a band labeled uncommercial (despite a series of hit singles during their ’70s incarnation), this edition of Steely Dan came on with the precision and showmanship of (and this is meant as a compliment) seasoned Vegas troupers. To wit: The band opened with a “Do It Again” vamp as keyboardist-singer Fagen and guitarist Becker dashed onstage like rock stars; the co-leaders introduced songs with witty and wry patter; and they played a selection of material that is as carefully crafted from a songwriters’ point of view as it is a showcase for top-notch musicianship.
Fagen and Becker’s backup crew were of typically high standard, the best-known being bassist Tom Barney and saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus, the former a frequent sideman on Dan tours and the latter the first musician to move from the Doobie Brothers to Steely Dan (Michael McDonald and Jeff Baxter having moved the other way in the ’70s).
Of the remainder of the uniformly fine group, Wayne Krantz shows all the signs of becoming a Guitar God, and Tom Leonhart gives Duke Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” the trumpet solo the Dan version really needs. (Aside from Becker and Fagen, only Prince among rockers would pepper his repertoire with references to Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.)
Promisingly, the set’s highlights included two new numbers, “Cash Only Island” and the classic-sounding “Jack of Speed,” both candidates for the band’s next Revolution label studio album, expected “sometime around the millennium,” Becker said. Among the better-known highlights were “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies,””Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and a New Orleans-styled encore of “My Old School.”
One drawback is the failure of the band to extend much beyond medium-tempo groove; such terrific uptempo classics as “Bodhisattva” and “Reelin’ in the Years” would have provided some nice contrast.