Steely Dan is in town tonight, which you’d know if you listened to the oldies station.
If you’re a longtime fan, that should be as arresting as the first notes of Kid Charlemagne. Steely Dan, which once sang about the most unsavory of characters, is now promoted on the most normal of stations.
It’s as if there’s a romance novel in the hidden papers of Hunter S. Thompson. Or as if Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch is a racist.
Somebody’s not reeling in the years, because they’ve completely lost track of them.
There’s a clear demarcation in the Dan’s work, and the after part has become the norm. That’s unfortunate.
In the first decade, they were about defiance and rebellion and the underside; beginning with Aja and for 30 years after, they’ve been music to move a shopping cart to. The Dan went from non-conformity to acceptance to a a reserved seat at the head table. Sort of like John McEnroe at Wimbledon.
Their second act may be enduring, but I’ll take Don’t Take Me Alive over Hey Nineteen.
Steely Dan concerts — tonight is No. 5 personally, but the first by Groupon — are usually mixed: some of the post-reunion collaborations, dabs of Becker’s and Fagan’s solo work, not enough early stuff, too much Aja and even more Gaucho. More fans perk up when they hear the introduction to Babylon Sisters and Deacon Blues than they do to King of the World, and the reaction from the oldest of fans is akin to that of seeing someone reading a trashy novel on public transportation: at least they’re reading, or listening.
Maybe Haitian Divorce will register.
Woody Allen recently said he’s not too old to do his best work at 79, and maybe neither are Becker and Fagan at 65 and 67. It’s hard to know since they haven’t released a new album in more than a decade.
That’s OK, though. They’ve already done Pretzel Logic, Royal Scam and Katy Lied. Or Countdown To Ecstasy. And that’s plenty good enough.