Steely Dan embarked on their Rockabye Gollie Angel summer tour and brought Elvis Costello with them. Crowds filed into Walnut Creek Amphitheatre while trying to huddle away from early bouts of rain. Elvis Costello and Steely Dan may not be the most logical pairing, but Raleigh was not about to miss these two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts on their current tour.
Opening the show was Elvis Costello and his backing band The Imposters, comprised of Steve Nieve (keyboards), Pete Thomas (drums), and Davey Faragher (bass). The group hammered out a crowd-friendly set that built momentum with each passing song.
The rhythm section was solid as a rock which provided Elvis the foundation to knock out his usual top notch performance. The band went through a large portion of the Attractions era tunes and delivered the goods on tunes like "Alison," "Accidents Will Happen," and "Watching the Detectives." As the set progressed, fans became more vocal and animated which was evident on crowd favorites "Everyday I Write The Book," "Pump It Up," and "(I Don't Want to go to) Chelsea" before closing the evening with "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."
Elvis showcased his virtuosity and virility in an encapsulated non-stop set. In fine form, he proved to be well matched act with the headliners. Costello and company allowed fans to experience the true measure of his artistry in an effortless fashion.
After a brief intermission, band members started taking their places onto the sparsely lit stage. As the band finished priming the pump with "Teenie's Blues," Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen took the stage along with the backup singers (The Danettes). Without missing a beat, the band swung into "Black Cow," immediately followed by an epic version of "Aja."
Becker and Fagen are the creative force behind a hit song machine that dominated seventies and eighties radio. They have always surrounded themselves by incredible musicians and this tour is no different. The brass section of Jim Pugh (trombone), Michael Leonhart (trumpet), Roger Rosenberg (baritone saxophone), and Walt Weiskopf (alto saxophone) were on fire and blended well with the rest of the band and each other. The Danettes, a trio of singers featuring Cindy Mizelle, La Tanya Hall, and Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery, offered highlights throughout the show. The rhythm section of bassist Freddie Washington and drummer Keith Carlock were perfectly at ease with the twisting time signatures throughout the Dan catalog while guitarist John Herington's solos were tight, tasteful, and complementing.
This group did not miss a beat as they churned out oldies like "Black Friday," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," and "Bodhisattva." Newer songs like "Hey Nineteen" and "Babylon Sisters" were equally on point and impressive. Crowd approval was abound as each song seemed to get better than the last as the night progressed. They finished up the evening with a one-two punch of "My Old School" and "Reelin' in the Years." The audience seemed to be just getting warmed up as the night was winding down, but the musicians came back out for an encore of "Kid Charlemagne."
Steely Dan put on a flawless and soulful show. Becker and Fagen have been working together as musicians for 50 years now and haven't lost any love for their craft. And for the fans, they reap the most benefit as almost every song feels like a greatest hit. Hopefully, this isn't the last we'll see of these guys.