At this point in their 30-plus year career, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have taken on the role of bandleaders. They conduct as much as they play. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. During an epic two-plus hour concert last night at a sold-out Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, they let their stellar 8-piece band do most of the heavy lifting. Sure, Becker still unleashed some terrific guitar licks (especially during “Josie”) and Fagen worked the keyboards all night. But the guys both have stand-ins who pick up most of the load.
Anchored by heavy-hitting drummer Keith Carlock who wailed away the entire night, the excellent backing band didn’t really need much guidance and that freed up Fagen and Becker to have some fun. At various moments in the show, the guys became rather animated. Fagen even got up from the keyboard that he seemed to use a crutch to take center stage, and Becker provided lead vocals on “Monkey in Your Soul.” His vocal performance was a bit shaky but it didn’t matter. The guy seemed to enjoy himself and he even broke into a bit of banter on occasion (he truly appeared to get a kick out of the simple task of introducing the band). While the show got off to a rather serious and somber start — “Hey Nineteen” came off as a rather pensive ballad — the duo and band quickly loosened up and by “Bodhisattva,” they were rocking hard. They saved the best for last, delivering hits such as “Peg,” “My Old School” and “Reelin’ in Years” in sequence.
By that time, the audience was up and off its feet and celebrating as if it were a Jimmy Buffett concert (any mention of “Mexico” often has that effect). “This is the best fuckin’ crowd we’ve played to on the entire tour,” said Becker as he, Fagen and the rest of the band came back for a two-song encore. He failed to mention that they were less than a week into the tour, but that’s okay. Inducted into the Rock Hall in the class of 2001, the guys got a rock 'n’ roll reception and returned the favor by putting on a helluva show.