Steely Dan & Dave Stryker Trio at Moran Theatre, Jacksonville 7.20.22
After a seasonal tropical downpour filled the empty Moran Theatre with a dense and ominous mist, Steely Dan fans with an active imagination could be forgiven for anticipating an ironic version of “Pretzel Logic”:
“Yes, I’d love to tour the Southland
In a traveling minstrel show…”
Dave Stryker Trio opened, with Stryker on his tobacco-burst Gibson 347 guitar, Jared Gold on a cutdown Hammond B3 organ, and McClenty Hunter on drums, playing a swinging and burning hour-long instrumental set that mixed original blues struts and soul classics by The Temptations and Curtis Mayfield. When Donald Fagen selects an underpublicized opener, the experienced fan pays attention, and your reviewer recommends this representative slice, a sample of their Mayfield segment, “Pusherman/Superfly” (from his album Eight Track).
The room was full and the air was clear by the time Steely Dan was assembled, a 13-piece band making up one big loud instrument. Donald Fagen was in low-key control, slumped over his Fender Rhodes like Captain Nemo in his submarine, channeling Duke Ellington and Ray Charles and conducting the band with casual raised fists and pointed fingers. Drummer Keith Carlock was beastly and dominant, tightly linked to bassist Freddie Washington and to the harmonies supplied by the Jon Herington and Adam Rogers guitar school. A spotlight at center stage illuminated a mic stand and music stand where Walter Becker used to play.
There’s no band more consistent, for better or worse, than Steely Dan. The mix, the lights, the setlist, and the arrangements were much better calibrated than the “hydrogen jukebox” that Ginsberg howled about. No surprises, no train wrecks, just a pop symphony in black leather, sending out deep cut FM sounds that seemed too polished to be live. “Home At Last” stood out, extended and epic, but “Aja” has been deleted. A cover of the Crusaders “Keep That Same Old Feeling” served as a coded testament to Larry Carlton, for those who knew. Fagen swabbed his face with a towel, drank water like a shipwrecked man, and pulled off the mic before hitting some lyrics, but the ship made it home at last.
[STEELY DAN: Phantom Raiders, Night by Night, Hey Nineteen, Black Friday, Black Cow, Kid Charlemagne, Home at Last, Green Flower Street, Time Out of Mind, Pretzel Logic, Bad Sneakers, Dirty Work, Bodhisattva, Keep That Same Old Feeling (The Crusaders), Peg, My Old School; E: Reelin’ in the Years, A Man Ain’t Supposed to Cry]