Saturday, October 5, 2013

Razor Girls

On September 12th I had the privilege of seeing Steely Dan live; only the second time. The tour was entitled "Mood Swings, 8 Miles to Pancake Day".  This time outdoors at the Mizner Park Ampitheater in Boca Raton. I expected mainly a sea of grey (and maybe even blue) hair but was quite surprised to see a good bit of younger faces, and not all seemed to have been dragged by their parents. And they sang along with even the lesser known cuts!

One of them was "Razor Boy" from the Dan's second album, 1973's Countdown to Ecstasy (though Fagen drolly announced it being from 1911!). It's a very good one, the lyrics of which are about as cryptic as most of their tunes, though I think materialism plays into it. But the version that night was an extensive re-work: almost entirely unrecognizable arrangement and instead sung by the always sexy as hell Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery, La Tanya Hall, and Catherine Russell ("The Borderline Brats"). While the ladies' rendition added a cool sheen, the music was, well, scattered. Like an experimental jam. An outtake or demo that was still in the larval stage. Unfinished. Interesting, but a mess. Somewhat like their odd live version of "Jack of Speed" heard back in 2011.

Most of the rest of the set was just out of sight. I was expecting a pleasant but unremarkable show but, wow, these guys still have panache. "Aja", "Your Gold Teeth", "Time Out of Mind", "Black Cow", "Home at Last" - all excellent. The horn section, the drummer (Keith Carlock, a maniac) - everyone was tight. Donald Fagen was shabbily dressed and still looked like the Crypt Keeper. At times his voice seemed this side of disintegration, but he still has it. Still does those long endings, too (like in the 1970s). And right before the encore, "Kid Charlamagne", he yelled "You 'Do It Again'" to a woman calling out requests. Vintage!

Walter Becker, as during the "Rarities" show I saw 2 years earlier, didn't move very much and still appeared like he needed more belt loops. He also hung back and deferred most guitar solos to John Herington (who was amazing). But his licks on "Josie" were as tasty as ever. His usual monologue during "Hey 19" was much more amusing (and coherent) than the one I heard last time.  And, he tailored it for a South Florida audience quite amusingly.

Speaking of which...there was no mistaking where we were. From the bitchy wife behind me ("...twentieth row? This is more like the fiftieth!....this is the worst venue evah!") to the whining guy in the beer line ("I had to park a mile away!"), to the crowd's indifference to the opening act (Deep Blue Organ Trio, who played some nice Hammond B3 organ and did their damndest to get to crowd to pay attention) it was Boca all the way. We had dinner outside at Max's Grille in the Mizner plaza before the show and were treated to a parade of bad plastic surgery. Let me further resist the temptation to crack on this most unusual of places.

And yes, "Reelin' in the Years" was played, a song I've heard enough times for several lifetimes. But it rocked and the original guitar part (for years substituted with saxes) was intact. The tour winds down in the next several days in NYC. Check it out if you can, scurvy brother!

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