Steely Dan at the O2 Arena
“We’re a little different to how we were a few months ago,” Donald Fagan spoke for the first time, matter-of-factly, after the first two numbers. “But I guess I gotta live with that.” The O2 Arena erupted into a round of applause so appreciative as to sound personal. There was no other direct mention of Walter Becker, Steely Dan’s co-songwriter and guitarist, who died this September, but nor did there have to be. Walter Becker lives through Donald Fagan and in the life-blood of the songs they wrote together.
The Steely Dan Project, or Organisation as it is often termed by Fagan, is the brainchild of just two men whose oeuvre is shouldered by many of the best session players the world has to offer. Fagan desisted from kowtowing to ideas of celebrity and offered no tribute to his lifelong partner-in-music more perfect than the set that they played. From the bold and clean rock classics of My Old School and Reeling in the Years to the complex fusion sounds of Babylon Sisters and Aja the band slipped seamlessly from each in a whistle stop tour through their catalogue, staying truer to their later more jazz-orientated sound.
Donald Fagan in dark shades, looking like an old, white Ray Charles, was just off centre stage behind a keyboard and was backed by a band of fans; session musicians at the top of their game but, above all, quite clearly honoured to be playing Steely Dan, which couldn’t have been clearer than in touring guitarist Jon Herrington’s grateful introduction of Fagan. As something of a centre piece to the show, the cheeky, plonking piano riff from My Old School came in and saw a full Arena take to their feet dancing. Coming back on stage for a surprisingly brief encore of Reeling in the Years – “Your everlasting summer/ You can see it fading fast/ So you grab a piece of something/ That you think is gonna last” – the band finished on a high from Can’t Buy a Thrill, their first album. As the lights came up, there was a dazzled atmosphere in the Arena; the instant consensus being that no set would have been long enough.
Photo: Raph Ph
For further information and future events visit the Steely Dan website here.