Steve Winwood & Steely Dan

July 2, 2016

Charlotte, NC

PNC Music Pavilion

Reviewed by Joseph Hett

Steely Dan And Steve Winwood Sizzle In Charlotte

It was a downright miserable evening in Charlotte, NC on Saturday at the PNC Music Pavilion. But the near 100-degree heat and high humidity couldn’t slow down the scorching performances of Steve Winwood and Steely Dan. This tour was a stop on Steely Dan’s “The Dan Who Knew Too Much” 2016 Tour. (Yeah, they do come up with some unique tour titles.)  Steely Dan have been road warriors the past few years – showcasing their unique style of jazz infused rock.

Winwood came out for a very powerful hour long set – in mostly blinding sunlight. Winwood and the band  got a funky, string scratching instrumental number going – priming the fans for Steely Dan. That tune then transitioned into the classic Spencer Davis Group song “I’m A Man.” And Winwood kept the classics coming with “Pearly Queen” and “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

It’s odd for audiences to give standing ovations to opening acts, but that’s exactly what happened to Winwood. As fans shuffled in for the Steely Dan show, the true fans of quality music were already seated and had their eyes glued to Winwood and his sharp band. These were not fake golf clap standing ovations; these were yell at the top of your lungs and stand up high while flailing your arms type of standing ovations. That is very rare to see these days, but everyone was impressed with Winwood and his band’s musical precision.

They played a cover of the Buddy Miles classic “Them Changes” and Traffic’s “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys.” The biggest reaction came during Winwood’s massive solo hit from 1986, “Higher Love.”

Winwood mainly sat behind the keyboards, but on several occasions he got up and played the guitar. He did give a masterful performance of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” – where he performed an extended guitar solo.

Winwood closed out the show with “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The fans in Charlotte really did show Winwood and his band some “lovin’.”

The legendary Winwood showcased an array of songs from his solo career, Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith and Traffic. Winwood could easily go on a tour of his own and put on a longer show. We’ll be waiting for that.

Steely Dan’s backing band came out and played the instrumental “November Afternoon.” Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the duo known as Steely Dan, came out with The Danettes, the backup singers.

They went into “Black Cow” and “Aja.” In years past, Becker has told a tale about running out of “cheeba cheeba,” but this time he shied away from the subject during “Hey Nineteen.”

It was just a simple stage setup with a black background. Some kaleidoscope images appeared throughout the evening on the backdrop. It was almost like Steely Dan wanted you to focus on their splendid musical offerings instead of bells and whistles.

The classics kept coming with the likes of “Black Friday,” “Kid Charlemagne” (Their usual encore in the past) and “Bodhisattva.” In between songs, Fagen frequently wiped his head off with a towel. It was still hot and humid on the stage even with fans blowing on the band.

The only negative (other than the heat) was that Steely Dan had the volume turned up to accommodate the massive venue. That kind of took away from the crisp, clean sound of the jazz infused music.

The Danettes did get a chance to shine with lead vocal duties on “Dirty Work” and “I Want To (Do Everything for You), which included band introductions.

Jon Herington and Becker shared lead guitar duties throughout the night. They seemed to have different tones, which in return complemented each other.

The homestretch came with Steely Dan’s definitive songs: “Josie,” “Peg,” “My Old School” and “Reelin’ In The Years.” For the encore, they played an extended version of “Pretzel Logic.”

They had a one-two punch of their most famous tunes. And as usual, they left out a few of their ground breaking songs. (It has been a trend and almost like they are embarrassed to play them – while the fans would die to hear them played live. But Steely Dan is Steely Dan.)

The two-hour show was bitter sweet because the heat and humidity made it dismal, but in return we got to see one heck of a unique show.