Steely Dan

IT felt strange - and slightly scary - to find myself among a few thousand people who felt passionately about the music of Steely…

IT felt strange - and slightly scary - to find myself among a few thousand people who felt passionately about the music of Steely Dan, when to me they were little more than a kind of jazzy backing track to my rock n roll youth. Okay, I had Countdown To Ecstasy and The Royal Scam in my record collection alongside Led Zep and Jethro Tull, but I never got too worked up about the cool, complex songwriting of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

Becker and Fagen reformed the Dan in 1993, 13 years after saying adios with Gaucho, and since then, audiences around the world have flocked to see the once studio bound band in full live glory. Last Sunday night's concert at the Point was the final date in a European tour.

In concert, Steely Dan are pristine and polished beyond your wildest dreams, that is, if, your wildest dream is to hear songs like Babylon Sisters and Peg played to such perfection, you might as well be back in the studio with Becker and Fagen. The pair are backed by an impressive group of musicians for whom the term "sessioneers" would seem faint praise and Becker introduces each player with obvious pride. Frontman Fagen sits stage front with his keyboards, "but also gets up and moves around with a hand held synth strapped around his neck. Haven't seen one of those in ages. The sound is so immaculate and the songs so craftily structured you almost wish a bit of feedback would suddenly fly into this perfectly tuned engine, or that maybe Fagen and Becker would break loose and give us a jazzed up rendition of Cigarettes And Alcohol.

Reeling In The Years however, was the nearest thing we got to classic rock n roll, and although songs like Green Ear rings and Deacon Blues wore a rock face, they were essentially jazz tunes with a slightly progressive edge. Nothing wrong with that, except that tunes like Black Cow are corralled into their own stylistic boundaries, they seem as dated as a pair of old boots. Kid Charlemagne was saved by a fast and loose delivery, while Don't Take Me Alive was fired up by its lyrics about death and dynamite. My Old School provided a suitably appropriate ending, a reminder that the past is not always particularly exciting, no matter how perfect it sounds.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist