“You’re doing a flashmob to Steely Dan? It’s old, boring, man music. What does your flash mob do? Jump out, lose their hair, complain about their backs and doze off?”
Contrary to popular belief – namely that of Lorelai Gilmore – on Saturday October 28th, Steely Dan rocked the 3Arena with a funky and dynamic performance, while still remaining faithful to their jazz-rock roots. The band may be renowned for their 70’s fame, but their newest album, Aja, has been their biggest seller to date. Two against Nature being soundtrack to my childhood, I was comforted to realise that their sound hasn’t changed too drastically.
The album was dedicated to a Korean woman who married the lead singer’s friend, and her aura hovered the concert. At the heart each song persists that soulful jazzy-rock, but Aja is distinguished by a melodious, oriental vibe. The lighting played with alluring shades of pink, red, and purple – occasionally alternating to an electric blue colour for the more upbeat numbers.
Donald Fagen – for whom I assume Ronald Reagan jokes must be quotidian – bloomed with energy and verve. Enraptured by the power of a single note, he thrusted his head and body, bellowing each one with equal vigour as if controlled by some external source. I couldn’t help but be reminded of another wide-mouthed character, subject to unnaturally darted movements. Fagen resembled none other than Floyd Pepper, a principle member of the Muppet Show’s rock band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. It was uncanny.
The demographic at the concert was specific, make no mistake: all baby boomers, and a good 4:1 male-female ratio. I myself was flanked by my Dad and his male friend, also in his fifties. The supporting act was The Doobie Brothers, a band as equally time-worn as Steely Dan themselves. Three long-haired, bearded men in cowboy hats backdropped by a billboard of the San Francisco bridge and the band’s name in a playful, italicised font. They started with a number that began, “Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright, oh yeah.” I enquired whether I was about to experience the phenomenon of Christian Rock. I was corrected, the genre being in fact, ‘classic west coast rock’, and ‘doobie’ meaning slang for marijuana. “So, they mean Jesus in more a Patti Smith way?” Not quite. The performance that proceeded consisted of repetitive rock tunes with unsophisticated chord progressions. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand nonetheless, and in the standing area middle-aged men fist-pumped euphorically. The Doobie Brothers were lively and maintained a steady beat, but I cannot say that I was overcome with the same enthusiasm. I think our friend nostalgia may have had a part to play.
In summary, forget the stereotypes regarding 70s Dad music. Next time Steely Dan come to town, don’t hesitate to grab some tickets. Their live performance has a certain magic the CDs don’t quite capture. Or perhaps it was just the Korean lady’s mystique, percolating the stage.