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Dancrop MOJO’s Mark Blake was at Steely Dan’s London show on Saturday night. So was Paul McCartney. Both gave the bone-dry duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen the thumbs up – metaphorically at least. But would they have a horse onstage, as they had in Livepool?

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Steely Dan
Hammersmith Apollo, London
July 7, 2007

An animated Sir Paul McCartney, in suit and trainers, whoops it up during Steely Dan’s final encore, My Old School. On stage, Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and their ten-piece band have just taken the audience on a journey “way back into the deep ’70s”.

Steely Dan’s last album, Everything Must Go, came and went in 2003. The suggestion seems to be that they’re touring again simply because they want to. These days, Fagen looks slightly down at heel; Becker like a history professor at some Midwestern university. Contrarily but not unexpectedly, they don’t play the hits, so no Do It Again or Reeling In The Years. Instead, the sold-out crowd get a greatest album tracks set, including an obligatory single number apiece from Everything Must Go and 2000’s Two Against Nature.

The opening Time Out Of Mind, from 1980’s Gaucho, serves as a loosening-up exercise for the four-man horn section, and backing singers, Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery and Cindy Mizelle, who supply some urgently needed glamour stage right. Perhaps wisely, there’s no sign of the horse they paraded on stage in Liverpool on the Friday [see picture below], perhaps in tribute to the Aintree Pavilion venue, but with Steely Dan you never know.

Fagen and Becker have always favoured Gaucho and ‘77’s Aja albums over anything else, and the rest of the set reflects this. Home At Last and Peg are exquisite, the myriad twists and turns of Aja’s title track showcases the possibly bionic wrists of drummer Keith Carlock. The between-song patter is mordantly witty and self-aware. Inexplicably, then, Becker is permitted to sing the lead vocals on the 1976 hit Haitian Divorce; the resultant barking suggests an audience member has just grabbed hold of the mic.

Yet a final fling through Kid Charlemagne, FM and My Old School is faultless: a combination of smartypants jazz licks and ‘70s pop choruses. As the first man out of his seat and cheering for an encore, it’s all Sir Paul can do to keep his thumbs from assuming the position. Mark Blake

So let’s have another look at that horse...


Posted by Danny Eccleston at 12:18PM | Categories: Live


i was fortunate enough to be sitting front row centre for my first ever Steely Dan gig and can confirm that it was a fantastic show from start to finish. Fagen kept his cool with shades permanently on, directing the band with the odd outstretched arm and Becker consistently soloed elegantly in his unique bluesy-jazz style. The excellent band bought the music to life brilliantly and had the audience buzzing throughout a most memorable experience.

Posted by: alf | 9 Jul 2007 17:47:12

How about a HOW TO BUY Steely Dan then? I've got Pretzel Logic and Aja, but where do I go next?

Posted by: Chocker | 11 Jul 2007 10:20:02

A truely wonderful experience to see the Dan's magnificent touring band at such a stunning venue in Paris. Well worth the journey from the North of Scotland. Unexpected experience of the night was the backing vocalists taking the lead for "Dirty Work". Even hard-asses like me were welling up!

Posted by: John Bisset | 12 Jul 2007 20:13:02

RE: Chocker 'How to buy Steely Dan'
Aja is not only their best album, but the best introduction; if you like it, you can't go wrong with pretty much any of the rest of their albums (though personally I find 'Pretzel Logic' to be their most overrated album- it's just too fragmentary).
IMHO, I'd go straight to 'Can't Buy A Thrill' next. It's their debut, from back when Steely Dan really were a proper band, instead of just Becker and Fagan's vehicle, so it has a much tighter, song-driven feel. Follow-up 'Countdown to Ecstasy' is almost as good (I'm seeing them live down here in Australia in September, and man they would make my year if they did 'Show-Biz Kids'!)
'Kay Lied' is probably their least-awesome album. It sounds kinda flat and samey compared to their others. 'The Royal Scam' is where they started to loosen up their songwriting in preparation for 'Aja', while their last 'classic era' album 'Gaucho' has a kind of ironic disco vibe.
After that, both of their late 'comeback' albums are patchy, but they have moments of brilliance, especially 'Two Against Nature'. 'Everything Must Go' has a proper live band feel, but the songs aren't that great.
Lastly, you should DEFINITELY grab Fagan's first solo album 'The Nightfly'. A kinda concept album about his fifties childhood, it's tougher than any Dan album but just as engrossing.
If I had to vote on a Mojo 'How To Buy' list, it would go:
1- Aja
2- Can't Buy A Thrill
3- Countdown To Ecstasy
4- Donald Fagan- The Nightfly
5- Pretzel Logic
6- The Royal Scam
7- Two Against Nature
8- Gaucho
9- Katy Lied
10- Everything Must Go

Phew! Well, that's my uncontrolled fan-gushing done for the day.

Posted by: Conor | 13 Jul 2007 04:40:54

Sir Paul McCartney? I was standing next to THE Bernie Nolan of Nolan Sisters fame in the Circle Bar. Beat that!

Posted by: John S | 13 Jul 2007 16:15:23

What Steely Dan album to buy next? Oh, I know.....BUY THE LOT!!!! One of the FEW bands that never made a wholly bad album. Trust me it's ALL good!!!!

Posted by: Ian Rogers | 14 Jul 2007 01:45:05

I went to the concert at Aintree Racecourse, and can confirm that the dummy horse pictured above was indeed brought onstage as a joke reference to the location of the gig.

The only song they played from "Can't Buy A Thrill" which was sung by one of the female backing singers. Perhaps they felt unable to reproduce those songs on stage without Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Does anyone know how he aquired that nickname?

Turning now to the vexed question of which is their best album, out of the six I have, I would place them in the following order:

1) Katy Lied
2) Can't Buy A Thrill
3) Countdown to Ecstasy
4) The Royal Scam
5) Pretzel Logic
6) Gaucho

Posted by: David Dutton | 15 Jul 2007 22:33:36

Hi there the date which Steely dan play in the uk
which was my birthday which is the 7/7/2007 and when my 21st birthday was 7/7/77 ive bought all steely dan music through the years and could you please tell me when the band are playing in the uk again and would it be possible where i could contact or purchase t shirts ect and info about the above band.

Posted by: alan | 16 Jul 2007 11:00:47