Steely Dan through his years at Pine Knob – The Oakland Press
The number of musicians per capita on stage was impressive on Saturday evening June 8 at the Pine Knob Music Theatre.
And so was the musicality displayed by Steely Dan and opener Snarky Puppy.
It’s no surprise either way, of course. Both groups thrive on a masterful genre-fusing big band aesthetic, Steely Dan with its 13 members and Snarky Puppy with its nine. The ambitious scopes of their respective music come from a jazz base, with shared passions for R&B and funk while Steely Dan has, since 1972, infused these into a rock/pop template.
It’s a winning and even revolutionary formula on both counts, with Snarky Puppy clearly a student of the headlining master. And on a weather night as pleasant as you could ask for an outdoor concert, the two bands delivered a veritable Saturday night special for around 10,000 fans.
Snarky Puppy has won a lot of new fans with his 45-minute set, previewing material from his upcoming album “Empire Central” (out September 30). The Michael League-led collective churned out a generous 45-minute set of their nimble instrumentals, balancing precision arrangements with adventurous improvisations that at times visibly surprised the musicians themselves. League praised the Pine Knob crowd for their attention at one point, and the opener well deserved a rare standing ovation at the end.
It was a great table setter for Steely Dan, the ’70s studio dweller who’s been a regular on the road since 1993. Donald Fagen has been running the ship these days since the 2017 death of his musical partner Walter Becker. (not mentioned once during the hour and the 45 Minute Show after his estate was sued over financial matters) but much like someone like, say, Brian Wilson, he positions himself as a creator showcasing his works as delivered by a group of assistants.
And those “helpers” are no small part of why Steely Dan cooks on stage these days. Together, for the most part, since around 2003, this particular line-up is well versed in Fagen and Becker’s complex material, well enough to give even the most faithful interpretations a few touches of freshness via nuances or solos. On Saturday, guitarist and musical director Jon Herington recreated the parts created by myriad predecessors in his own style, while his new six-string partner Adam Rogers, a well-accredited player and solo artist from New York who played on the Becker’s 1994 solo album ’11 Tracks of Whack’ fits in easily and features ‘Aja’ and ‘Bodhisattva’ in particular.
Steely Dan’s catalog is so full of 70s Album Rock must-haves that it would take hours to carve them all, so Fagen and company once again came up with a thoughtfully curated set list that featured exclusions. notables (“Do It Again”, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”) and, with the exception of “Green Flower Street” from Fagen’s 1982 solo album “The Nightly, None of What Came After ‘Gaucho’ from the 1980s. But that hardly left fans wanting.
The troupe kicked off with a deep cut, extended version of ‘Night by Night’ from 1974’s ‘Pretzel Logic’, but quickly entered the charts with ‘Hey Nineteen’, its mention of ‘Retha Franklin’ attracting the cheers of his hometown. crowd. “Home at Last” was highlighted by an aggressive instrumental coda underscored by Rogers, keyboardist Jim Beard and drummer Keith Carlock, the latter a commanding presence that killed him for virtually every one of the 19 songs (“Aja” in particular). Fagen, on harmonium, and Rogers exchanged licks during a smooth rendition of “Time Out of Mind,” while Herington and Beard did the same in a warm section of “Green Earrings.” .
Each of the four horn players, meanwhile, came to the fore for solos throughout the night, while the backing vocal trio, the Danettes, took their usual lead on “Dirty Work.”
While “Bodhisattva” was the only number that sounded somewhat thrown off the band, Steely Dan brought it home with the uptempo trio of “Peg”, “My Old School” and an encore “Reelin’ in the Years “, one last chance for Herington to scorch the speakers with his guitar solo. “Sometimes things work out,” Becker – in his usual shades and a black sports coat – told the crowd, and that was certainly an understatement to sum up Saturday’s show.