Steely Dan rolled into the Paramount in Huntington on September 13th as part of the group’s Jamalot Ever After tour. For several years now the group has been avoiding the summer concert season and touring in the fall. Recent years have seen the group do multi-night runs at the Beacon Theatre, often playing entire albums from its 70s golden era in one night.
At the Paramount, with 14 musicians on stage, the group played a familiar selection of songs, including a healthy serving of its defining Aja album. Particular favorites included “Hey Nineteen,” “Show Biz Kids,” “Bodhisattva,” and the night’s grand finale, “Kid Charlemagne.” The lone cover was the Joe Tex chestnut “I Want to (Do Everything for You).”
While early r&b and particularly soul music had an obvious major influence on the group’s biggest hits, there is a structure in the way that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker approach the composing and arranging of their music that is similar to that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Of course, Strayhorn wasn’t really a performer and wasn’t part of Ellington’s orchestra, but the Ellington/Strayhorn model does seem to be the base structure from which their music springs.
The two-hour show featured impeccable musicianship, and slight variations from the original studio tracks freshened up the music for the stage. With the high level of musicianship and featuring songs as good as any in rock history, Steely Dan’s music, more than 30 years after the group’s heyday, still out-shines nearly anything on the charts today. Steely Dan was not just an album band; it scored many hit singles as well. There isn’t one song on the charts today that could rival the Dan’s mightiest hits.
For all their focus on the music, both Fagan and particularly Becker had fun telling stories, including their heartfelt fondness for their Long Island connections, in a dry, deadpan manner that was hilarious and often had the crowd convulsive with laughter.
The British Invade Again
The following night at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury was the 2014 British Invasion Tour, featuring Mike Pender’s Searchers, Chad & Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer and Denny Laine. Terry Sylvester, formerly of the Hollies, opened the show, replacing headliner Gerry & the Pacemakers, due to Gerry Marsden’s being hospitalized in Spain. Pender’s jangly Rickenbacker 12-string and his still-strong voice brought alive such Searchers British Invasion gold as “Needles and Pins,” “Love Potion #9,” “Sweet for My Sweet” and “Sugar and Spice.” It would be great to see another full Searchers reunion, given how successful the group was even beyond its 60s heyday. Next up was Chad & Jeremy. The pair played some of their biggest hits, told stories and maintained the magic chemistry that made them one of the biggest duos of the British Invasion. Long Island resident Billy J. Kramer stole the show. Playing with the house band for the evening, which included former Billy Joel drummer and current drummer in Kramer’s band, Liberty Devito’s perfect back-beat, Kramer brought his regular guitarist out and mixed his biggest hits, new songs and more to rapturous applause. Kramer’s new album I Won the Fight, features strong material he wrote and spotlights a new-found toughness and depth to his vocals that if possible sounds even better than back in the 60s. Kramer closed with a cover of the Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More” that was stunning. Denny Laine closed the show and brought the house down with the hit he sang with the Moody Blues, “Go Now.” All the artists came on in the end and performed a spirited “Band On The Run.” The entire evening was augmented by wonderful visual video images of the various artists’ 60s singles and album sleeves and photos, something rarely seen at a concert like this and very welcome.
British Invasion, Beatles and John Lennon fans will want to be at The Dix Hills Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, October 26th at 2:00 P.M., featuring Mostly Moptop, as part of The #9 Lennon Birthday Special. The band will be joined by percussionist Donald Larsen and nine additional guest artists: Susan Devita; Judith Zweiman; Gear Head Freaks; Joe Gioglio; EV Sweet; Andrew Lubman; Marci Geller; Ben Phillip and former Strawbs member and Long Island-resident John Ford. The Dix Hills Performing Arts Center is located at Five Towns College, 305 North Service Road in Dix Hills.