Steely Dan at Ravinia: Half of Steely Dan is better than none

Steely Dan at Ravinia: Half of Steely Dan is better than none

When you attend a rock concert, are you there to see the band and it's members or the music? Go back to the early days of rock and roll. You wanted to see Elvis and those grinding hips. You loved it when Jerry Lee Lewis kicked away his piano stool. Sure, the music was also great, but secondary.

In the sixties, The Beatles concerts were an hour of screaming. You couldn't hear the music and it didn't make any difference.

While a band's personality and stage show are a large part of the live rock and roll experience, there are plenty of artists that let their music do the talking. One of those bands has always been Steely Dan.

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker formed Steely Dan in 1972. For more than four decades, they have had multiple artists joining them to help make their nine studio records. The stories of how each note had to be perfect, especially to Fagen, are legendary. Nothing was left to chance. Steely Dan was known as more of a studio band than a live group, but in the current music business, money is made by touring, so Steely Dan hit the road.

Walter Becker died of esophageal cancer two years ago today. Fagen has said that he while he still wants to play their music, he would have wanted to retire the Steely Dan name. However, for commercial reasons, meaning the cash, he was persuaded to keep going and use the name that most of his fans recognize.

Steely Dan brought its act to the Ravinia Festival for two Labor Day weekend shows. The music is technically excellent. It's what a perfectionist like Fagen demands, whether it's on a record or live. The problem is it sounds rote. It feels like they've been playing it night after night after night...year after year after year.

Fagen's voice sounded better than it did in their last Ravinia appearance. He still has trouble hitting the extra high notes, which is understandable at age 71. His excellent backup singers helps him cover that up.

Highlights of the night included Steely Dan standards, "Black Friday", "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and "My Old School." The concert ended with "Reeling in the Year" and Fagen giving a shoutout to his partner Becker.

With the price of the show being reasonable, especially if you're sitting on the lawn, it was a good value. Even though the concert didn't leave you wanting to come back for more, it was good to hear the classic tunes by the original voice.  All you needed was some Cuevo Gold...the fine Columbian. It would have made last night a wonderful thing.

Related Post: Woodstock at 50-Where are they now?

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