Thursday, August 29, 2019
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The good news is that we got to see Steely Dan put on an excellent concert Tuesday night at Covelli Centre.
The bad news is, it came at the expense of what could have been an even better night.
The rainy forecast forced the powers that be to move the show two blocks down the street, from the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre to Covelli Centre.
It’s the first time that ever happened in the very short history of the amp. And it’s a great idea – one that somehow never occurred to me. It’s great to have that option.
But the show would have been incredible had it remained outdoors. Steely Dan’s jazzy, improvisational and full-bodied set would have been truly memorable under the stars.
And while the acoustics inside Covelli aren’t bad for an arena, everything sounds more natural outdoors.
Oh well. The amp may have the charm, but Covelli has a roof.
First, let’s get this straight: Steely Dan is not just a Rock Hall of Fame act; it is rock royalty.
Tuesday’s two-hour concert had no opening act and didn’t need one.
Donald Fagen – the surviving member of the duo after Walter Becker’s 2017 death – started it by walking to his position as his 12-piece orchestra got revved up. Fagen sat front and center behind a keyboard that bore a photo of jazz greats.
Fagan’s voice still has that wry attitude, one of the many reasons that made his band so cool.
The ensemble included a four-man horn section and three female backup singers who swayed in choreographed rhythm through a 19-song set.
One can only guess at what any Steely Dan song is really about.
Usually it’s a narrow glimpse of a specific tragic or comical moment in Fagen’s or Becker’s memory. The overall themes translate, but you had to have been there to really understand, and that has always added to the band’s mystique.
Tuesday’s concert was the first of the current Steely Dan tour, and the act was in fine form.
It was in a total groove from the start, a raging jazz orchestra of seasoned pros transcending music school arrangements.
The show started with “Teenie Blues,” a ’60s era blue jazz standard, and followed it with the keyboard-centric “Sign in Stranger” and “Black Friday.”
Then the hits started and never stopped. Fans reeled in the years to the tune of “Kid Charlemagne,” “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number,” “Dirty Work,” “Peg” and “Bodhisattva,” among others.
By the time Fagen and Co. got around to “My Old School” and the first encore song, “Reelin’ in the Years,” folks were dancing in the aisle – same as they would have done if they were at the amp.