I haven’t been to SPAC in about 15 years, but I was absolutely not going to miss seeing Steely Dan in my own backyard. My friend Thor was my date, and although the forecast was foreboding, we arrived armed with umbrellas, ponchos and chairs so that we didn’t have to sit on the wet, muddy ground.
My biggest worry with SPAC was that since we had lawn seats, the sound wouldn’t be that good. Those fears were quickly assuaged when Steve Winwood took the stage. He couldn’t sound more clear if I was listening to a CD in my car.
The show was PACKED, even up to the lawn. Pretty sure I saw Mr. Funk, the high school music teacher who tried to get me to undress in front of him after a 10th grade performance of Anything Goes. If it was, he didn’t recognize me, but I’m sure I’m just one in a very long list of teenage girls he’s creeped on over the years. I was not going to let this ruin my night. Nothing can ruin Steely Dan.
Sat next to three very giddy boys who were having the time of their lives. They were there mostly for Winwood, who played for a solid hour as the sun set. First show I’ve been to where the space was big enough to warrant screens, so it was nice to be able to see Papa Don up close, even if at times I felt like I was watching a concert film.
Steely Dan came on just before 8:30 and fucking killed as always. Papa Don was a little hoarse, straining with a chain-smoker’s rasp on a few of the early songs, but by about the halfway point, he’d figured out how to work with it. Cameras stayed mostly trained on Fagen, to the point where I was a little concerned that Uncle Walt wasn’t there at all. But by “Hey Nineteen,” he got the spotlight for his mid-song ramble, which is always the highlight of the show. “Steely Dan fans are the best fucking people in the world!” he said. (TRUTH) This was a little more loving than seeing him at the Borgata, where he proclaimed Atlantic City “The seventh circle of hell” (TRUTH).
The Danettes were a touch over-mic’d, but maybe that’s because I miss Catherine Russell and have an irrational dislike of Carolyn Leonhart. I think she’s fine doing recorded backups, like “Pixaleen” and “Almost Gothic,” but she puts too much of a white-girl blues spin on this and is consistently out-sung by the other two Danettes.
This was the most fun I’ve seen them have at a show. Papa Don was surprisingly chatty. They played for a solid hour and a half to a great crowd who managed to be excitable without being obnoxious. No TV babies here.
“Hey Nineteen” (Uncle Walt invoked Jerome Aniton, calling us “You pretty, pretty little ones” in the ramble)
“The Caves of Altamira” (I swear they played this just for me)
“Kid Charlemagne” (Papa Don needs a lozenge)
“Two Against Nature” (Everyone started chatting)
“Dirty Work” (The Danettes took this one and I watched a drunk mom coo this to her grown-up sons)
“Bodhisattva” (“What a night! I’m buggin’ out, ya’ll!”–DF)
“Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More” (Walter Becker sings)
“Godwhacker” (No one wanted to let Papa Don play the melodica)
“Josie” (Thor’s favorite!)
“Peg” (Abbreviated version from ones I’ve seen in the past; no melodica)
“My Old School”
“Reelin’ In The Years”
ENCORE: “Pretzel Logic”
Like any good Show Biz Kid, my Steely Dan t-shirt collection is something of a prize. But alas, the merch table left something to be desired. The girl’s shirts looked like something off Cafe Press, not like my much beloved Rockabye Gollie Angel shirt or the Dukes of September shirt I wore until it disintegrated. I bought a coffee mug instead.
I’ll be seeing them one more time this year, at the Beacon Theater in October for “By Request.” Matthew & I put in for “The Second Arrangement,” because of course we did.