- 29 Oct 17
Last Man Standing Donald Fagen Brings The 'Dan To Dublin. Pat Carty Reports.
Due to a “production meeting” which overran (in The Flowing Tide), Hot Press missed a good half of the Doobie Brothers performance, but what we did catch, including ‘Listen To The Music’, sounded great, the singing and playing exemplary. It sounded great, that is, when you could actually hear it. The audio completely dropped out in the middle of their huge hit, and, according to the fella beside me, this was the third or fourth time it had happened. A testament to the Doobie’s professionalism then, that they didn’t let this misfortune affect their performance. If anything, it endeared them to the crowd even more.
The hipsters of today are quite rightly scorned and mocked – go home, shave, and put on a pair of big boy pants. The original hipsters were a different thing altogether. In his 1977 book Jazz: A History, Frank Tirro saw the hipster as “always ten steps ahead of the game”, “he is looking for something that transcends all this bullshit and finds it in jazz”. Donald Fagen has always seemed to personify this attitude, opening tonight’s show with ‘Fan It, Janet’, a song found on trumpeter Maynard Ferguson’s 1958 album, A Message From Newport. Hip enough for ya? He follows it with the first of two numbers from his 1982 solo album, The Nightfly. ‘Green Flower Street’ could be a testing of the waters, checking to see who really is in on things. ‘Black Cow’ welcomes the rest of us to the party, Fagen getting busy on the Fender Rhodes behind his ever present dark glasses. The four piece horn section also get to stretch out, as do the three backing singers – their gloriously half-arsed dancing only speaks of their serious intent, they’ve come to sing, not flounce about. ‘Hey Nineteen’ gets a roar of recognition from the crowd, prompting Fagen to comment “you know this one?” Is he sneering? Have our hip levels been found wanting? No matter, everyone is happy to reminisce about real or imagined nights past and passed with Cuervo Gold and fine Colombian.
‘New Frontier’, the second song from The Nightfly, lifts the keyboard line from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Happy Birthday’, indeed there are times when Fagen, sat at the keyboard, head swaying behind the shades, lost in the music, starts to somewhat physically resemble the Motown genius. ‘Aja’ was always going to be a highlight – the shoot out between saxophonist Walt Weiskopf and drummer Keith Carlock leaves every musician in the room questioning their self-worth. Fagen assists on the melodica, but it’s akin to helping out the Royal Philharmonic by adding a bit of kazoo.
‘Black Friday’ rocks along, Jon Herington’s guitar playing is so mathematically precise throughout the show, you’d believe him if he told you he studied it at M.I.T. ‘Book Of Liars’ is played for Fagen’s fallen partner, Walter Becker, and while it’s right and proper that he be honoured, he warrants a better song. The Danettes – La Tanya Hall, Carolyn Leonhart, and Cindy Mizelle – take over the vocals for ‘Dirty Work’, which is followed by ‘Bodhisattva’. “I always skip this one on the cd”, says the bloke behind me, and I nod my agreement. A fine stab at Joe Tex’s 1965 belter ‘I Want To (Do Everything For You)’ throws the crowd off slightly, many using it as an opportunity to visit the bar. Fagen himself then wanders off as the band introduce themselves, but he’s back for the all killer closing hat trick of ‘Peg’, ‘My Old School’, and ‘Kid Charlemagne’. They encore with ‘Reeling In The Years’, of course, and it’s a sing-along celebration. That’s it for Fagen, and the band finish out with Nelson Riddle’s theme tune from the old Untouchables TV show. Hip as fuck.
It’s hardly a surprise to hear that I’m a big fan of the 'Dan, Gaucho and Aja are my favourites seeing as you ask, but I was in two minds about tonight’s show, worried it might all be too academic, too studied, too, that word again, hip. My fears were proven unfounded, the whole affair swung, viciously. While it may have appeared slightly mercenary for Fagen to carry on with this tour after Becker’s death, everyone present tonight was very glad that he did. I’d be seriously tempted to go back again on Monday night.