I just got back from tonight's Steely Dan show at the Beacon Theater, the second entry in the 7 night run that's continuing at the Beacon over the next several days. First off, GREAT show, even if Walter Becker unexpectedly didn't make it the whole way through.
I initially became obesessed with these guys during my freshman year of college in 1995, and this was still somehow my first time ever seeing them live after all these years. 12-piece band, with 2 sax players, trumpet, trombone, guitarist, keyboard dude, drummer, three background singers, of course rounded out by Becker (uhhhhhh sorta) on guitar and Fagen on keyboard and occasional melodica. Basically a two hour set which gave the backing band (The Bipolar Allstars) plenty of opportunities to shine.
Something odd happened though. During "Hey Nineteen" early in the set, Walter Becker strode up to the mic and went off on a three-minute rambling speech in which he mentioned that he was looking forward to smoking some pot and drinking tequila after the show (referencing the "Cuervo Gold" and the "fine Colombian" from the lyrics in "Hey Nineteen") before the band finished the song. Then, a few songs later (was it during "Bodhisattva?"), he walked offstage unannounced, not to return for the remainder of the show.
Donald Fagen addressed it during the next song, saying that Becker "had a bad fever before the show." Becker mentioned nothing about being sick during his speech, however. Towards the end of the set, Fagen added that this was the first time Becker had ever missed a show during their 40-year partnership. You hate to think like this, but in light of Becker's well-documented struggles with substances in the late '70s / early '80s, you just have to hope he's well. He definitely seemed very inebriated during the episode.
I actually got a poor-quality cell phone video of nearly the entirety of "Hey Nineteen," and I'm uploading it to my YouTube channel now - it should be done uploading by 7 AM or so / I will add it to this post when I wake up tomorrow morning. [Edit: added video below.]
Even without Walter Becker, it was an excellent show. Becker's absence meant that guitarist extraordinaire Jon Herington had to do double duty, and he admirably nailed all of the iconic solos in this greatest hits set. Famously, Steely Dan chose to remain solely a studio band during much of the band's initial heyday (see the somewhat cryptic Ginsberg-inspired liner notes of Alive in America for some of their reasons behind avoiding the touring life), they're a well-oiled machine these days.
Here's the setlist, or at least what I can remember of it:
1.) instrumental intro (Bipolar Allstars only) 2.) Your Gold Teeth 3.) Aja 4.) Hey Nineteen 5.) Showbiz Kids 6.) Black Cow 7.) Black Friday 8.) Time Out of Mind 9.) Deacon Blues 10.) Bodhisattva 11.) Rikki Don't Lose That Number 12.) FM 13.) Don't Take Me Alive 14.) uhhhhhh not sure 15.) Josie 16.) Peg 17.) My Old School 18.) Reelin' In the Years (with drum solo)
-encore- 19.) Kid Charlemagne 20.) instrumental outro (Bipolar Allstars only)