September 15, 2013
North Charleston, SC
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
Concert Review by Joseph Hett
Steely Dan Strives In North Charleston
Steely Dan made their triumphant return to North Charleston (and to the state of SC) for the first time since 1996 on Sunday night. The sold-out audience would get to enjoy the jazz-infused rock of the legendary duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. It was part of their Mood Swings: 8 Miles To Pancake Day Tour, or as Fagen called it “career trajectory.”
The backing band, The Bipolar Allstars, came on the stage and began to play the instrumental “Blueport.”
Fagen, Becker and The Borderline Brats, the back-up singers, paced on the stage to a thunderous applause and cranked out “Your Gold Teeth.”
Becker said, “We’re going to play some songs you want to hear, and we’re going to play some songs we want to hear.” And that’s exactly what they did. “Tonight is the absolute peak of the summer of 2013.”
Next up, Fagen stepped out from behind the keyboard and pulled out his melodica for “Aja.” He was casually dressed with his signature shades and an orange shirt with a greenish tie.
During the fan favorite, “Hey Nineteen,” Becker provided one of his infamous comedic eight-minute monologues. It involved the “cheeba cheeba” running out and then raiding the medicine cabinet and making a concoction of “mouthwash and hydrogen peroxide” and other ingredients to make a drink. The story then transitioned into the “Cuervo Gold” lyric, and they finished up the song.
They kept the classics rolling with “Black Cow,” “Black Friday” and “Time Out Of Mind.”
Becker got a very rare chance to sing lead on “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More,” a deep cut from the 1975 album “Katy Lied.”
The lead guitar playing seemed to be split in two parts for the show. Becker handled the first part, and Jon Herington played mostly the second half. Herington really got to shine starting with “Bodhisattva.”
Fagen said that the next song, “Razor Boy,” would be performed by The Borderline Brats. He also said that it had never been performed live before and is “off of our first album which came out in 1907.”
Becker introduced the band in the middle of the Joe Tex cover “I Want To (Do Everything For You).” Becker gave another expanded speech to introduce Fagen.
“He’s a good singer, a good writer, great producer, great record maker, great singer-songwriter, he’s a hit maker, a globetrotter, man-about-town, he’s a writer, author, recently published, he’s a gourmet chef, he’s a globetrotter, he’s a certified panty diver, he’s got a library card from the St. Louis Public Library and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
They finished out the set with some of their biggest hits like “Josie,” “Peg” and “My Old School.” The whole audience quickly got on their feet when “Reelin’ In The Years” started up. Herington really had that guitar blazing for the solos.
After a brief wave by the band, everyone exited the stage, and it was time for the encore. They came back out and played “Kid Charlemange.” Fagen and Becker exited the stage, and The Bipolar Allstars played them out with the “Untouchables Theme.”
It was a jam packed two-hour set, they played the hits and some deeper cuts. Fagen’s voice was strong the whole night, except for one little part near the end. The band was also on the money and very tight.
It’s amazing how Steely Dan didn’t tour a lot years ago to focus on recording in the studio. But it seems like they have transitioned into more of a touring band, with nationwide tours every couple of years. Hopefully Steely Dan will make North Charleston a regular stop every time they come around from now on.