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Steely Dan’s NYC residency goes solo with ‘The Nightfly’ performance

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Al Pereira/WireImageSteely Dan‘s annual multiple-night residency at New York’s Beacon Theatre has become a tradition, even without the late, great Walter Becker

The 2019 edition, due to wrap up Tuesday, runs six nights, three of which saw Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan band perform three classic Dan albums in their entirety: Aja, The Royal Scam and Gaucho.  There was also a “Popular Demand” night of frequently requested tunes; Tuesday’s final show will be a Greatest Hits set. 

But Saturday night’s show featured a full performance of, not a Steely Dan work, but Fagen’s 1982 solo debut The Nightfly.  The autobiographical album  — one of the first fully digital recordings — spawned the hit “I.G.Y.” and the MTV favorite “New Frontier.”

Fagen led the 12-piece band of crack musicians at a steady clip through The Nightfly, while alternating between playing the melodica and the piano.  The band ably handed the complex arrangements, which are much more jazzy than Steely Dan fare.  For “Maxine,” Fagen let the Danettes — the three female backup singers — handle lead vocals.

As soon as The Nightfly finished, the band launched into the Royal Scam deep cut “Sign In Stranger,” followed by the crowd-pleasing “Hey Nineteen.” In the middle of that Gaucho track, Fagen finally addressed the crowd for the first time: “Hey there, kids, how ya doin’?”

Once he’d broken the ice, Fagen was much more talkative, announcing that the rest of the concert would consist of, as he put it, “random s***.”  He also seemed to be having more fun, at times resembling a mad scientist as he sang, played and grinned behind the keyboard.

A mix of big hits and beloved Dan album tracks followed, from “Aja,” “Kid Charlemagne,” “Peg” and “Time Out of Mind,” to “Peg,” “My Old School” and, of course, “Reelin’ in the Years.”  Solos by each member of the four-piece horn section added welcome nuances to the arrangements.

The evening proved that there’s no shortage of fans hungry to hear not just Steely Dan, but Steely Dan-adjacent material…which Fagen seems more than happy to provide.  A similar residency kicks off at Boston’s Orpheum theater on October 25.

Here’s the set list:

“Green Flower Street”
“Ruby Baby” (Drifters cover)
“New Frontier”
“The Nightfly”
“The Goodbye Look”
“Walk Between Raindrops”
“Sign in Stranger”
“Hey Nineteen”
“Time Out of Mind”
“Kid Charlemagne”
“Dirty Work”
“Keep That Same Old Feeling” (The Crusaders cover)
“My Old School”
“Reelin’ in the Years”
“A Man Ain’t Supposed to Cry” (Joe Williams cover)

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