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Gonzo Report: Steely Dan still going strong — but no dancing!

Reelin’ in the fans

No dancing, please; this is a rock and roll concert, not a party!
No dancing, please; this is a rock and roll concert, not a party!

Steely Dan came to town on May 28, 2022, to play the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater. The cloudy weather did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the many upwardly mobile individuals attending the concert. I was fortunate to get into Premier Parking, which means you get to park closer to the arena for $40 more. (However, it did not mean getting out of the venue earlier. We were stuck motionless in one spot for over an hour after the concert.)

Once we were nestled safely in our parking spot, I decided to scour the other parking lots to compare the scenes. As far as I could tell, there was no difference between them when it came to the activities of the concertgoers. In both, it was a scene of wine and picnics. I saw one group eating salads, another eating sushi, and another with a charcuterie board with nice meats & cheeses. A very subdued concert parking lot situation, and not a joint in sight. The crowd appeared to mainly be in their sixties and seventies, driving luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla to their rock ‘n roll show and not wanting outside interference from any other concertgoers. I deemed it a yuppie rocker paradise, and resisted the temptation to ask them if they knew that the name Steely Dan was taken from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and referred to an oversized, steam-powered, strap-on dildo.

The venue was easy to get into, but once inside, I found the thought of paying $27 for a Vodka Lemonade somewhat discouraging. Other downers: no dancing allowed, and we were required to turn off our cell phones. The phone thing I understood, but no dancing to Steely Dan? It’s an interesting thing when dancing at a concert is taboo. Is it possible the venue was aware of the demographics of the concertgoers and did not want to field complaints?

Steve Winwood was supposed to be the opening act but dropped out due to Covid-related scheduling conflicts. Snarky Puppy assumed the opening slot instead. I had never heard of the all-instrumental band — a ten-piece ensemble whose members hail from all different parts of the country — but they were all great musicians. Do yourself a favor and check out their Latin/funk/jazz sound on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts on YouTube.

Steely Dan was not to be outdone; they had their own ten-piece ensemble, plus three backup singers called the Danettes. They came out playing a big band sound reminiscent of the Glenn Miller era. Then out walked Donald Fagen. He propped himself behind his keyboards, right up front in the middle of the stage. His voice sounded the same as ever on songs such as “Hey Nineteen,” “Aja,” and “Kid Charlemagne.” A singer from the Danettes sang a beautiful rendition of “Dirty Work.” That was followed by a sizzling version of “Bodhisattva,” before the band finished off the set with “My Old School.” That’s when I saw the flashlights, flashing and blinking as security guards rushed through the crowd to tell people to sit down and to stop dancing. I had a hard time staying seated for the entire concert, but I managed, even when they played “Reelin’ in the Years” for an encore.

Donald Fagen is the last original member of Steely Dan. All the musicians performed flawlessly, but I did notice a difference in the music without the signature guitar playing of fellow founder Walter Becker. I guess that’s to be expected after a band loses a founding member, a guy who helped create many of its hit songs, and replaces him with a new guitar player (along with having their longtime musical director take up some of the missing riffs). Becker died unexpectedly of esophageal cancer at age 67 on September 3, 2017. Shortly after that, Fagen filed a lawsuit against the estate of Becker to retain full control of the band. The litigation began four years ago and is still going strong. Happily, a fan in the crowd would not notice any signs of ill feeling, or even know there was a lawsuit in motion. As a matter of fact, there was a sense of kinship between Fagen and his fallen long-time partner. He finished the concert by saying, “I’d like to thank my partner Walter Becker for helping out.” He then did a quick salute to the sky and walked off the stage.

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No dancing, please; this is a rock and roll concert, not a party!
No dancing, please; this is a rock and roll concert, not a party!

Steely Dan came to town on May 28, 2022, to play the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater. The cloudy weather did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the many upwardly mobile individuals attending the concert. I was fortunate to get into Premier Parking, which means you get to park closer to the arena for $40 more. (However, it did not mean getting out of the venue earlier. We were stuck motionless in one spot for over an hour after the concert.)

Once we were nestled safely in our parking spot, I decided to scour the other parking lots to compare the scenes. As far as I could tell, there was no difference between them when it came to the activities of the concertgoers. In both, it was a scene of wine and picnics. I saw one group eating salads, another eating sushi, and another with a charcuterie board with nice meats & cheeses. A very subdued concert parking lot situation, and not a joint in sight. The crowd appeared to mainly be in their sixties and seventies, driving luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla to their rock ‘n roll show and not wanting outside interference from any other concertgoers. I deemed it a yuppie rocker paradise, and resisted the temptation to ask them if they knew that the name Steely Dan was taken from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and referred to an oversized, steam-powered, strap-on dildo.

The venue was easy to get into, but once inside, I found the thought of paying $27 for a Vodka Lemonade somewhat discouraging. Other downers: no dancing allowed, and we were required to turn off our cell phones. The phone thing I understood, but no dancing to Steely Dan? It’s an interesting thing when dancing at a concert is taboo. Is it possible the venue was aware of the demographics of the concertgoers and did not want to field complaints?

Steve Winwood was supposed to be the opening act but dropped out due to Covid-related scheduling conflicts. Snarky Puppy assumed the opening slot instead. I had never heard of the all-instrumental band — a ten-piece ensemble whose members hail from all different parts of the country — but they were all great musicians. Do yourself a favor and check out their Latin/funk/jazz sound on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts on YouTube.

Steely Dan was not to be outdone; they had their own ten-piece ensemble, plus three backup singers called the Danettes. They came out playing a big band sound reminiscent of the Glenn Miller era. Then out walked Donald Fagen. He propped himself behind his keyboards, right up front in the middle of the stage. His voice sounded the same as ever on songs such as “Hey Nineteen,” “Aja,” and “Kid Charlemagne.” A singer from the Danettes sang a beautiful rendition of “Dirty Work.” That was followed by a sizzling version of “Bodhisattva,” before the band finished off the set with “My Old School.” That’s when I saw the flashlights, flashing and blinking as security guards rushed through the crowd to tell people to sit down and to stop dancing. I had a hard time staying seated for the entire concert, but I managed, even when they played “Reelin’ in the Years” for an encore.

Donald Fagen is the last original member of Steely Dan. All the musicians performed flawlessly, but I did notice a difference in the music without the signature guitar playing of fellow founder Walter Becker. I guess that’s to be expected after a band loses a founding member, a guy who helped create many of its hit songs, and replaces him with a new guitar player (along with having their longtime musical director take up some of the missing riffs). Becker died unexpectedly of esophageal cancer at age 67 on September 3, 2017. Shortly after that, Fagen filed a lawsuit against the estate of Becker to retain full control of the band. The litigation began four years ago and is still going strong. Happily, a fan in the crowd would not notice any signs of ill feeling, or even know there was a lawsuit in motion. As a matter of fact, there was a sense of kinship between Fagen and his fallen long-time partner. He finished the concert by saying, “I’d like to thank my partner Walter Becker for helping out.” He then did a quick salute to the sky and walked off the stage.

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