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Steely Dan Perform Their Greatest Hits At Beacon Theatre, Saturday, October 29th, 2016, Reviewed

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Welcome to the review of the worst Steely Dan concert ever, a disaster from one end to the other as the bad boys of prog rock for the past forty years perform a Greatest Hits set that was neither great nor had many hits. Now, true, Steely Dan doesn’t have so many hits to start with, but, in the 90 minutes I caught, they doled em out like I’m Oliver Twist and the hits are gruel. The last time I was mugged this bad at a “Greatest Hits” gig was Elton John in 2011 (here). Different problem, of course, John rearranged em (and then threw an hour of his latest album at us in the middle), Steely Dan just ignored their own promise, and revised it to “near hits, near misses…” or if you prefer, anything they felt like playing.

Donald Fagen is so immensely dislikable that he’s the boy who ran home crying because a buncha kids beat him up for killing Jesus, when in fact they beat him up for being Donald Fagen. He looks like the world’s oldest sophomore in sunglasses, dress pants and sneakers, and Walter Becker looks like his Grandpa, and between them they give sincerity a good name on their annual the mortgage is due on our Hawaii mansion tour. When they returned to the world of touring, and recording, in the mid-90s, they had a certain seriousness to their endeavor: a great new album, a rewriting of the studio bands m.o., so thrilling because, you know, how could they even play these songs live to start with and wow that’s “Haitian Divorce”!!. But in the past fifteen years they’ve stopped recording and they’ve stopped pretending to be anything but yet another calculated nostalgia act. Fagen likes to say “relax and let us do the driving” and it is apt, because they are coldly calculating bunch of hacks, who think passion is a six letter word.

Madeleine Peyroux, the terrific singer-songwriter, performed a fine set (though it would be much better at the Iridium) highlighted by a Leonard Cohen, no not that one, cover at one end, and a Warren Zevon cover at the other. The Warren Zevon one, “Keep Me In Your Heart”, was the highlight of the entire evening, as she did the impossible, and respected Warren’s deeply personal swan song.

After an interminable 45 minute break, that had an audience rougher looking than the never met a Big Mac he  didn’t like Becker on the verge of a mass died peacefully in their sleep, Donald and Walter and the band inflicted their presence upon us. This was a bad set from a what the hell has this to do with their greatest hits with the band only opener, before cratering out and cratering out and cratering out. “Dirty Work”? Sung by the backup singers. “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More”? Absolutely awful and Becker, on a roll, is worse while disrupting “Hey Nineteen” with a spoken word interlude. It was in the middle of that song where I realized things weren’t going to click. After “Hey Nineteen” (the second song of the evening), nothing worked. Between the sound being too loud, the rearrangements too brusque, the long wait leading to irritability , and versions of “Black Friday” and “Kid Charlemagne” which simply failed to ignite, and an audience never more than polite, click it did not. This was one of the worst shows by a major band I’ve ever seen. Donald drove us right over a cliff.

Grade: D

 

 

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