- 06 Mar 19
Steve Winwood wanders onstage looking like a down-at-heel geography teacher. Thankfully, this sartorial miscue proves the evening’s only disappointment, as an extended groove ushers in an impeccable ‘I’m A Man’. Winwood – whose voice remains immaculate – plays some keys but really shines on guitar, turning in blistering fretwork on Blind Faith’s ‘Had To Cry Today’. ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’ is similarly stunning, while ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ makes for a powerhouse finale.
And so on to Steely Dan, with the jagged rhythms of ‘Bodhissattva’ setting us up for a vintage night. Two things become evident this evening: 1) Donald Fagen seems to have had a personality transplant, with the quiet grump of olde replaced by a garrulous frontman; and 2) Keith Carlock is the best drummer to have ever walked the earth. Having said all that, Fagen’s grouchy side hasn’t completely disappeared, with an audience complaint at one point met with the retort, “Why did you buy a ticket, you asshole?”
Dan aficionados will be well aware they are infernal pedants, which has served them well in terms of selecting musicians; the levels of virtuosity on display are remarkable. The set is a potpourri of classics: ‘Aja’ casts the psychedelic spell of witnessing a Californian sunset on acid, while ‘Black Cow’ has the pace and intensity of a Lalo Schifrin soundtrack.
“What do you want to hear? I’m easy,” quips Fagen, before making a requestee’s night with a dazzling ‘Ricky Don’t Lose That Number’. There are the expected off-piste moments also, with ‘Kid Charlemagne’ given a blaring, extended finale.
The Danettes take turns on vocals for ‘Dirty Work’, although – in a rare misstep – they muddy its beautiful simplicity somewhat with octave-leaping theatrics. ‘Peg’ is welcomed like a prodigal son and ‘Josie’ proves why she’s the pride of the neighbourhood, while the boogie-woogie of ‘My Old School’ brings the main part of the set to a memorable close.
For the encore, meanwhile, ‘Reeling In The Years’ – though generally dismissed by hardcore Dan fans – melts the hearts of even the most imperious chinstrokers, courtesy of its anthemic chorus. A suitably climactic end to a brilliant evening.