I am relatively new to Steely Dan, got on board in 2003.   Their unique blend of jazz, rock, and funk would grow on me, like a fungus I was told.   Thankfully, I kept listening and August 21 was my second time seeing them. 

This tour, Rent Party ’09, has four night stands in a few cities, three feature the performance of an album plus other songs, the fourth being internet requests from all the lucky ticket holders for that night (I’d vote for “Your Gold Teeth” if I went that night.)   This past Friday was the performance of the classic 1977 album, “Aja,” Steely Dan’s highest selling album.  (Steely Dan – Aja)

  Steely Dan performs songs from  AJA and other albums in L.A.

Like the last time I saw them, Walter Becker, guitar, and Donald Fagen, keyboards and vocals (the only true members of Steely Dan) enter to thunderous applause after a 10 minute jam by their band. Becker and Fagen take their positions as the jam ends.  “Black Cow” is the first song, answering my question of whether they would open with the album or close with it.  It is performed very faithfully to the album by the tight band Fagen and Becker have with them, with enough flourishes of personality from the individual players to make it interesting.  ” Aja” is up next and is flawless. Drummer Keith Carlock does an admirable job on this one, having to play possibly the most famous Dan song amongst drummers. The original is famous for session master Steve Gadd’s original drum part, done in one take legend has it. After “Deacon Blues,” arguably the most famous song on the album, the stage goes dark…a spotlight shines on a record player on stage left…a backup singer appears and flips a record. 

Side Two begins. “Peg” features one of my favorite Steely Dan basslines and Freddie Washington nailed it and brought his own character to it. “Home At Last” and “I Got the News” are partly spent by myself and Sweet Melissa getting beer, having a smoke and what have you.  The parts I heard sounded like the rest of the album, faithful with some individual touches. “Josie” finishes the album, with the Dan’s funk coming through.  The famous guitar riff brings a smile to my face. 

Another smile comes as I look at the time, only 45 minutes into the concert! (Remember when albums had to be a certain length? Remember albums?) I know I have over an hour of music to go,  and I won’t know what they’ll play next. The Don announces that we will now hear some songs from all era’s of Steely Dan. “Time Out of Mind” and “Babylon Sisters” kept things rolling along in this one long set of classics. 

The tempo of “Show Biz Kids” was changed and gone was the slide guitar from the original, you could say the Dan pulled a Dylan. The familiar blues riff of “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More” begins. Becker, who didn’t sing on a Dan album until 2003,  steps up to the mic and takes over lead vocals from the Don, who sang it originally.  Becker’s voice has none of Fagen’s character or familiarality, but he always sings one at their shows. “Hey Nineteen” brings another smile to my face, and before the backup singers belt out the “Cuervo gold…” part, Becker again steps to the mic. He speaks to the crowd as the band plays on, something about being with your loved one, in front of a fire, having a good time, then he lets the singers sing “the Cuervo Gold, the fine Columbian, make tonight a wonderful thing,” say it again!

“Bodhisattva”, “Do It Again”, and “My Old School”  brings the band and the crowd to a crescendo, before finishing the set with my favorite song, “Kid Charlemagne,” a song written about a certain LSD chemist you may have heard ofOwsley “Bear” Stanley. The encore that follows is “Reelin’ in the Years,” a great upbeat way to send the Dan faithful out of the theatre and wandering through Universal Studios to their cars. A splendid time was guaranteed for all…

– Brian Blewitt, Sherman Oaks, CA  8/23/2009

Purchase AJA and other Steely Dan classics at Deadheadlands Amazon Steely Dan store!

Hardcore Steely Dan fansite: The Dandum!