Written by Dave Clements
Aug 30, 2013 at 07:00 PM
ImageWhat is a Steely Dan? Not sure that I know. Not sure that I care.

You could go to the internet like I did. You’ll find some interesting opinions there. What I can tell you is that on this Friday night at The Woodlands Pavilion, Steely Dan was Donald Fagen on keyboards and vocals and Walter Becker on guitar.

These two guys who have been around for over forty years. Tonight they brought a great supporting cast and, between the thirteen of them, put on a terrific show.

Before they took the stage we were treated to the sounds of the opener, the Deep Blue Organ Trio. This Chicago based went on late, at almost 8 pm. Do you like the blues? If you like the blues, say Amen! The crowd said an amen that they were finally playing. Their vibe was very subtle and unassuming.

All three were seasoned jazz musicians who had respected individual careers before establishing the group in 2000.  They let the crowd know that they had a #1 album on the jazz charts and it was easy to see why. I especially enjoyed their funky cover of the Stevie Wonder hit You Haven’t Done Nothin’. All in all they were the perfect choice for a warm up band for Steely Dan.

And Steely Dan was running late too. Walter Beckers five guitars were lined up and waiting patiently on stage. At 8:45 they appeared!

ImageWhen they took their places on stage they threw it into high gear quickly. It was fun to note the 3 slinky female background singers were going to provide some visual interest.

This was the third time I have seen Donald Fagen perform in the last few years. The first time was at The Bayou Music Center in downtown Houston. On that night, he was flying solo, not as part of Steely Dan. The main thing I remember is that it was like watching paint dry. Excellent music, just no show. It looked a lot like a DJ spinning tunes.

The next time we saw him he was at this very same Woodlands Pavilion venue when he showed up with his buddies Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald for The Boys of September tour. That night he could have stolen the show but not for Mr. Scaggs. Scaggs was simply outstanding and eclipsed the other two. They could have renamed the tour The Big Boz Boy of Summer Tour. He was unbeatable that night!

Tonight Donald Fagen had no competition, only the support of his longtime partner, Walter Becker. Hands down this is the way Fagen was intended to play and be heard. He was engaging and focused on giving crowd what they came to see. They played a couple of songs from their 20 song set before launching into Aja. The visual illusion of purple smoke blowing across the stage had the ladies behind me declaring this song was ‘so sexy’.  Evidently a crowd favorite as they surged to their feet at the conclusion of Aja, giving Steely Dan a standing ovation!

ImageThis tour is named Mood Swings. I think I get it. This collection of songs reflected a variety of emotions and the hits evoked some special memories over the course of the two hour show.

A highlight for me was hearing from Becker (vs Fagan) segue into Hey Nineteen. He announced that he’d just found out that “tonight was the ‘pinnacle’ (perhaps the largest crowd they have played to ~6k) of the summer of 2013” – saying ‘I’m not surprised because this is one beautiful crowd’. Then he gave us some great music with his lime green guitar.

Other highlights were Josie, Peg, My Old School, Black Friday and especially Reelin’ in the Years. Their unique sound is, at times, memorizing. You could pretty much drown in the sound.

At the end of it all, Fagen’s stock went way up with me. Guess third time’s a charm. I would give serious consideration to seeing Steely Dan again, assuming the 60 something New Yorkers decide to continuing touring. I hope they do.

Until next time remember there is no time to kill.