It’s not often your dreams come true. You hope and you pray but sometimes things just don’t work out how you want. But, that’s not the case for me this week. My hopes and prayers have landed me the profound privilege of attending one of the greatest soft-rock bands of all time, Steely Dan. Founded in 1971 by guitarist Walter Becker (1950-2017) and keys player Donald Fagen (1948-present), Steely Dan has been thrilling their fans for more than 50 years! This jazz/rock ensemble has assembled for a huge tour that includes seven stops in Florida! Tonight is the second in that series, taking place at the majestic Mahaffey Theater in gorgeous downtown St. Petersburg.
The Mahaffey Theater is simply stunning. The European box style theater seating is as beautiful as the waterfront views of Tampa Bay. Opened in 1965, the theater can hold just over 2,000 patrons for its concerts and ballroom events.
This evening’s opening act is the Dave Stryker Trio. Stryker is an acclaimed jazz guitarist who plays with an edge. His three piece band gets the crowd warmed up in a jiff with the jazziest version of The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.” Fast paced and abstract they tantalize the theater with technique before dropping into a blues number. They finish their way-too-short thirty minute set with Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” with “Eleanor Rigby” teases in the jam odyssey. What an opening set!
After a short intermission, I return to my seat and get ready for a dreamy set from the legendary Steely Dan. The lights come up and the band begins with a rousing jazz number that stirs the room. Only once they had worked us into a lather did Fagen join the party. His keys are set right up front and in the middle and rightly so as he is the only remaining original member. They waste no time getting into the hits as we crack into the iconic, “Hey Nineteen.” It’s here that Jim Pugh struts his stuff with a big solo on the trombone. Next up is “Black Cow” and once again Pugh stands out. Close on his heels is guitarist Jon Herington. I can’t say enough about the talent all the way around in this group. Holding down every beat with perfection is Keith Carlock on the drums. This man is a machine! From here they move into “Kid Charlemagne,” a song that Kanye West sampled for his song “Champion.”
Fagen takes back the spotlight playing a song from his ‘82 album Night Fly. Now standing, he dances around the stage in his black sunglasses. Then he grabs a melodica and helps play his synth heavy jazz number. All of a sudden, the lights drop low and the drums begin to rumble. The keys twinkle playfully but frantically adding to the strangeness. Every instrument adds to the intensity of the moment before the entire band crescendos and we splash into “Ricky Don’t Lose That Number.” The crowd cheers with delight! Not only is the music impressive, but the lights have been incredible all night long. Backup singers Catherine Russell and La Tanya Hall receive whistles and applause as they take turns slaying the verses of “Dirty Work.” Trumpeter Michael Leonhart has the last word of the evening with a capitol solo that “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” was simply amazing.
They cap off my amazing night with a stellar performance of “Reelin’ In The Years.” Herington simply sizzles on guitar hitting all the right notes for the iconic solo before they let Carlock go nuts! All lights are on him as he ends the show with all the tricks in his bottomless bag. A standing ovation for Steely Dan! What a night! What a dream!
STEELY DAN PHOTO GALLERY
Steely Dan Live Concert Review by Spencer Storch /// instagram.com/spenceandrepeat
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