There can’t be a better band than the ensemble Donald Fagen has put together to tour with him as Steely Dan.
And there’s never been a Pinewood Bowl show as musically sophisticated as the 1 hour, 50 minute concert they performed Sunday night.
Led by guitarist Jon Herington, who played most of the parts from the recordings by many of the band's collaborators, including Walter Becker -- Fagen’s partner in Steely Dan who passed away almost exactly two years ago -- and driven by drummer Keith Carlock, a true monster on the trap set, the band exquisitely captured the Steely Dan sound.
That is a mixture of traditional pop and jazz, some rock and a touch of blues with gospel/soul backing vocals provided by a trio of Danettes. A four-man horn section — a pair of saxes, trumpet and trombone — brought punchy counterplay to the rhythm section. Then, on nearly every song, someone -- horn player or guitarist -- took a solo.
Overseeing it all was Fagen, who sang most of the songs in his familiar -- if not slightly frayed -- voice (the Danettes got a couple leads, most notably on “Dirty Work”) while playing piano on a couple songs, including “Aja."
Steely Dan gets the “yacht rock” designation these days. But songs like “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” have been radio staples since the early years of rock on the FM dial. And Sunday’s set was mostly made up of the songs the 4,300 who filled the Pioneers Park amphitheater came to hear.
That list included one number that got a bit of an introduction from Fagen.
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“My partner, Walter Becker and I, years ago were asked to write a theme song for a movie. The movie was a gigantic flop, but the song was kind of a hit. So here (it) goes.”
The movie was “FM.” The song, “FM No Static at All."
It came in the middle of an impressive run that included “Peg” and a bluesy take on “Pretzel Logic" before the run to the finish of “Josie." The Danettes led “Bodhisattva” and a thrilling, main-set closing “My Old School” that, for my money, was the moment of the night.
Fagen appeared to be having a good time throughout the show, throwing out quips between songs after dabbing his head with a towel -- ‘It’s funny, it’s both hot and cold, what’s the deal with that?’ he said early on.
Then, as the band returned for the two song encore, he said, “It looks like Woodstock 150 out there, only better.”
Then came “Reelin’ in the Years” one of the songs the band had to play and beautifully delivered as it ended a superb concert that wrapped up the 2019 Pinewood Bowl concert season in unmatchable fashion.