Concert Review: Steely Dan @ the Beacon Theater (Aja Show) 9/19/11

“Break out The hats & hooters”….. Steely Dan, a band that did not tour much during their hey days now seem to be a regular on the concert circuit every couple of years. They have found a home at the Beacon Theater on The Upper West Side of Broadway in Manhattan.

The Beacon is not my favorite venue, great location but the seating is rather high up in the loge area. We were in the first loge at a very high priced $150 ticket for being so high up. The seats are tightly close together, not enough leg room, rest rooms & a rather small lobby which is very tight at the start or end of the show. The sound can also be iffy, although it was pretty good last night.

No matter what economic times we live in the huge Steely Dan fan base are loyal and always come out. Last nights show was the fourth of seven sold out nights at the Beacon on their Shuffle Diplomacy 2011 Tour. Each night at the Beacon has a different theme usually where an entire album is played, on the fourth night it was the classic 1977 five million selling Aja album.

Steely Dan is made up of Upper East Side resident, Donald Fagan the multi keyboardist, piano player, lead vocalist & main song writer. He is a perfectionist, pays very close attention to detail & on stage is the leader of the whole show.

His longtime partner, Queens born Walter Becker handles the guitar work on stage rhythm as well as some lead. Becker also has written with Fagan, played bass, as well as produced may Steely Dan & solo Fagan projects through their career.

The current tour lineup playing as clean & meticulous as Steely Dan music can be played, were just flat out- great. The Miles High Big Band (as they are called) features long time Steely Dan touring guitarist Jon Herington (2000-1022) who once again was phenomenal, the popular Keith Carlock who was just as incredible on drums, Jim Beard on keys & Freddie Washington on bass.

The fantastic horn section included; Michael Leonard (trumpet) Jim Pugh (trombone) Roger Rosenberg (baritone sax) & Walter Weiskopf (sax).

Helping Fagan on the legendary Steely Dan female vocal arrangements are “the Embassy Brats” featuring the lovley Carolyn Leonhart Escoffery, who has been with Steely Dan on Tour & on record since 2000.

Along side Carolyn were Cindy Mizelle & Catherine Russell. The girls were sensational, also doing a remarkable performance when they alternated the lead vocals on the classic “Dirty Work”.

Fagan’s voice was certainly a bit overworked as it sounded very hoarse. The girls really helped him out last night carrying his hoarse voice through some rough spots, although to his credit he carried on without missing a beat. Fagan of course was fantastic on piano & the various key board instruments he played. A fully bearded Walter Becker was great on guitars, and he even gave us a bit of storytelling during “Hey Nineteen” as well as doing the band intros.

The show opened with The Sam Yahel Trio doing a half hour set & then the Miles High Big Band doing an Intro called Dizzy’s Bidness. It followed by Fagan & Becker taking the stage to a huge ovation from the mostly over forty crowd.

Carolyn Escoffey then walked over to the front right side of the stage & placed a record on a phonograph, as the band started out the Aja album. (By the way she did turn it over after side one was complete.)

It was an enjoyable extra long show, as people who were at other nights said those shows were shorter. The band gave the crowd their money’s worth playing well over two & a half hours. Highlights for me were Aja, Home At Last, Bodhisattva, My Old School, Reelin in the Years, Kid Charlamagne & the rare live performance of Riki Dont Lose that Number. 

Steely Dan Set List- 9/19/11

Dizzys Bidness (intro)

(Aja album in it's entirety)
Black Cow
Deacon Blues
Home At Last
I Got The News

Your Gold Teeth
Black Friday
Lunch With Gina
Hey Nineteen
Riki Don’t Lose That Number
Show Biz Kids
Time Out Of Mind
Papa Don’t Take No Mess
Dirty Work
My Old School
Reeling In the Years

Encores- Kid Charlemagne
Last Tango In Paris


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