One of the more enigmatic bands of the ’70s seems to have grown more comfortable in their skin over the decades. There was a time that Steely Dan tours were few and far between and even cancelled. I had a ticket to a show in Greensboro, N.C. during my college years (let’s just say some 30-plus years ago and leave it at that), only to have the dates abruptly pulled. The band, which basically boiled down to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, was notoriously precise in the studio to the point of being fanatic about being able to recreate their sound on the road. There were also whispers of substance issues that kept them chained to the familiar. No matter now. We are just glad to have them (still Becker and Fagen and a host of phenomenal side players) out of that agoraphobic and perfectionist stage of their career so we can enjoy the immense talents that these two bring to a stage.
The Mood Swings 2013 tour comes in two packages. We might get the greatest hits or we might get the entire AJA album plus greatest hits. They’re not saying yet for Philly, but either way it will be stellar. There is not one bathroom moment throughout the show, so get that out of the way on your way in. Either way, it’s a two hour non-stop romp through decades of an amazing catalog that is sure to delight all-out Dan Fans, as well as those who might only be able to hum a few bars of “Reeling in the Years” (which is still like a new song after all these years!). In fact, songs that you’ve heard a million times aren’t necessarily reinvented, but continue to exhilirate. Donald Fagen continues to shine in his leader of the band role and guitarist Walter Becker gets his spotlight on stage with his banter during “Hey 19,” customized for the local crowd. The band is all extraordinary, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from a band that has always performed with the top studio musicians. Make sure you keep your eyes on drummer Keith Carlock who is Buddy Rich incarnate. And stay in your seats or on your lawn blanket all the way to the very end because the encore “Kid Charlemagne” is absolutely worth your wait.
The stage is beautifully lit with lots of video images and screens, but be sure to concentrate all your senses on the music. You’ll also want to get there on time for the opening act, Deep Blue Organ Trio, a real jazz outfit that is the perfect precursor the jazz/rock mix that awaits you. And The Shuffle Diplomacy Band, an 11-piece band backing Becker and Fagen features lots of horns and includes Philly native Jim Beard on keyboards
Steely Dan at The Mann. Have more beautiful words ever been spoken?
Monday, September 21: 7:30 p.m. Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave., Fairmount Park. $30-$110. Visit manncenter.org for details.