Sunday, August 25, 2013

Steely Dan at the Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles (08.24.13)

I'm not sure what twisted hand of fate placed Saturday night's Steely Dan concert at the Nokia Theatre on the same date and time as the Taylor Swift show directly across that street at Staples Center. However, I can tell you that the intermingling of Swift's throng of pre-pubescent girl fans in pseudo ballerina outfits and the Dan's surly, balding/graying/ponytailed crowd around the LA live complex was at least slightly surreal, and had just enough decrepit sleaze to make it a perfect start to the evening.

Is There Gas In The Car?
Let's back up a bit. Kat (my beloved lady) and I have the same birthday, and my dear mother had given us tickets to the Steely Dan show as presents. We were quite happy; while we both gravitate toward newer music, we are music lovers first and foremost, and no one is going to put on a concert of sophisticated jazzy rock like the Dan.

We left our South Bay shangri-la rather early so we could grab dinner downtown before the show. Additionally, Kat had never spent any significant time in the DTLA area. Let's face it; most LA-area residents tend to compartmentalize in the bubbles of our own communities. Kat moved here from her native Seattle in 2008 and a lot of renovation has continued downtown in times since, so it was probably overdue for us to spend an evening there regardless. We didn't want dinner to be a big time/money suck, so we ended up at the Lawry's Carvery on Figueroa. A great place to eat? Not particularly enticing, though it wasn't bad, and it was fast, and having prime rib while doing some people watching in downtown LA on a Saturday evening was better than a sharp stick in the eye.

After our cheap yet serviceable meal, we strolled around the LA Live complex a bit. Other than going to Staples for Lakers and Kings games, I hadn't spent much time in that area myself recently, and it was a nice summer evening. We enjoyed the moment, until we went into the utter mayhem of the Ubiquitous Coffee Retail Chain. After waiting patiently for a small cup of drip coffee for 15 minutes, I enacted my revenge through much passive-aggressive posturing and semi-purposeful mischief around the sugar and cream area.

Neither Kat nor I had been inside the Nokia Theatre before, and we were suitably impressed upon entering. After finding our seats, we headed back up to the concession area for $756 worth of beer (in the form of two semi-warm Heinekens), then settled in for a night of smooth-ass music.

Nothin' But Blues and Elvis
The opening act was the Deep Blue Organ Trio, a traditional jazz act out of Chicago, and they were just perfect. What a way to set the mood for an evening of fantastic musicianship. At about 9:00, the house lights went down and the Bipolar Allstars (the Dan's name for their touring orchestra) took the stage, followed by Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. And they played this:

1. Blueport (Jerry Mulligan cover, played by the band before the Dan sauntered out)
2. Black Cow
3. Aja
4. Deacon Blues
5. Peg
6. Home at Last
7. I Got The News
8. Josie
9. Your Gold Teeth
10. King of the World
11. Hey Nineteen
12. Black Friday (w/Showbiz Kids sax intro)
13. Time Out Of Mind
14. GodWhacker
15. Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More
16. Bodhisattva
17. Razor Boy
18. I Want To Do Everything for You (Joe Tex cover)
19. My Old School
20. Reeling In The Years

1. Kid Charlemagne
2. The Untouchables theme (played by the band as Donald and Walter fled to their respective buses)

And Every Word We Sang I Knew Was True
I'm not going to "review" anything here, especially the songs. Consider everything performed with the highest level of musicianship, along with the best live sound quality of which you can conceive. There. But, I do want to talk about some of the musicians. Cause, damn.

Keith Carlock: I've seen a lot of really great drummers play live. Keith is up there with any of them. I was perhaps most impressed at how he flowed so seamlessly between the many feels of the army of Dan drummers that originated the material. Hats off.

Jim Beard: He handles the brunt of the keyboard/piano duties for the show and had some stunning moments, particularly in the intro to the rearranged "Razor Boy". Like most of the band, Jim is hugely respected in the musician community, and deservedly so.

Jon Herington: Jon's been the main guitar guy for the Dan for about 15 years, and serves as the musical director for this tour. I loved how he perfectly blended elements of the original guitar work with new and frankly jaw-dropping solo sections.

Did You Realize That You Were A Champion In Their Eyes?
A few other things rattling around my head on this, the Day after Dan. Note: videos found on YouTube. Damn those video pirates! Damn them, I say!

1. Becker's Ramble: In the midst of "Hey Nineteen", the band settled down into a controlled vamp while Walter had a few things to mention to the audience. There's something about the slight edge of sardonic cynicism in Becker's voice that would have me grinning had he read random Wikipedia entries aloud, but his roundabout tale of mastodon tusks, chiba chiba, and unwanted crème de menthe is better experienced than described.

2. Aja In Its Entirety: Well, what can I say? It's been one of my favorite albums since my hipster parents played it often during my 1970s childhood. It was truly thrilling to see Walter and Donald and an absolutely stunning band bring it to life.

3. My Fine Whine: What can one do after a perfect evening of music than find a reason to complain? My inner douchebag says that while doing four songs from "Countdown to Ecstasy" was all good and well, I would have gladly accepted some "Any Major Dude Will Tell You", "Doctor Wu", or "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" instead. Just saying.

4. Go See The Bands You Can See: You know and I know (and everyone else knows) that there are bands and musical artists you always wanted to see, but haven't. They weren't playing close enough to you. The tickets were too expensive. You had no one to go with. You had to do something important and responsible on that day at that time. Well, lemme tell you: those musicians are going to retire and die and stuff. Catching them on YouTube isn't the same. Go see those bands. You know who they are.

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