Of all the so-called “dinosaur acts” whose decades-old songs form the basis for sustained touring at what 10 years ago would have been considered unacceptable prices, Steely Dan’s continued presence is among the most legitimate.
The veteran (and we’re talking 40 years here) partnership of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker proved as much Wednesday night, delivering a top-notch performance during the first of two sold-out nights at Massey Hall.
Flanked by the sort of expert musicianship that’s become synonymous with the band’s name, Fagen and company played iconic 1977 album Aja from front to back, giving fans reason to dance in their seats to classics like Black Cow, Deacon Blues and Peg.
And while playing the seven tracks that comprise what’s still considered one of the most advanced studio recordings in pop music history might have been more than enough to satiate some, The Dan was hardly willing to stop there, delivering an impressive assortment of hits from several of the rest of its illustrious career.
Yes, the band is playing the same songs it’s been playing for decades and yes, Fagen’s voice sounded a little more coarse, a little more strained. But his energy, his delivery and the group’s collective ability to meet the lofty musical expectations fans bring with them to Steely Dan shows were as fluid as ever.
Of course there’s a degree of repetition in what Steely Dan does. The nostalgia blinders that in some instances allow fans to forgive an act’s unwillingness to fade away are definitely worn by some.
In this case though, at least from what was on display Wednesday night, Steely Dan has every right to keep singing those same old songs.
Steely Dan plays 1976′s The Royal Scam Thursday night at Massey Hall.