Las Vegas Sun

May 27, 2017

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Steely Dan strips it down to the music at Venetian residency

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Erik Kabik/erikkabik.com

Steely Dan anchor Donald Fagen performs (with bassist Freddie Washington behind him) at the Venetian on April 12.

While sitting dead-center in the Venetian’s cavernous Opaline Theatre and allowing the warmth of Steely Dan’s 1977 jazz-rock opus “Aja” to wash over me, I realized something: We really need to adjust the characterization of what is currently being called the Las Vegas residency.

That’s not to say the classically unconventional rock band’s nine-show run here, which started Wednesday and continues through the end of the month, doesn’t deserve the residency tag. It’s just that lumping this long, slow, deep groove of a concert into the same Vegas show category as Ricky Martin’s new panoramic extravaganza at Monte Carlo or Britney Spears’ dance party at Planet Hollywood could be a bit confusing. Do you want to see a show, or do you want to hear some music? Today’s Strip offers plenty of both.

The Dan’s fans certainly knew what they wanted on opening night. The audience erupted when Donald Fagen and Walter Becker stepped on stage as their band concluded Maynard Ferguson’s swinging “Fan It, Janet.” They opened with Aja’s “Black Cow” before tumbling into their best-selling album’s title track, an extended, complex jam that earned more lengthy applause.

After that early highlight, other standouts included ’72 pop gem “Dirty Work,” and guitar epics “Peg” and “Reelin’ In the Years.” They didn’t play anything from 2000 Grammy Album of the Year Two Against Nature, closing with the meandering, time travel-themed “Pretzel Logic” and then the walkoff big band theme from the old Untouchables TV show. As expected, Steely Dan’s touring ensemble is a model of musical versatility, and on Wednesday night, the locked-in combo of bassist Freddie Washington and drummer Keith Carlock propelled the show … er, sorry, the concert.

Steely Dan: Reelin’ in the Chips continues April 15, 19, 21, 22, 26, 28 and 29 at the Opaline Theatre at the Venetian. Find tickets at 702-414-9000 or ticketmaster.com.

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