They Got the Steely Dan T-Shirt

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To Steely Dan or not to Steely Dan?  That is the question some Angelinos are asking themselves this month, as tickets are on sale for a rare Steely Dan concert on July 23 at the Nokia Theater.  I can think of several reasons to see Steely Dan: popular and influential band from the 1970s, known for smart, acerbic lyrics, a revolving all-star team of virtuoso studio musicians, jazz chops, stellar production values, hardly ever play live, blah blah blah.  But let’s face it: the real reason to see Steely Dan is that they are getting older, and one never knows how much longer they will be playing live music or will even be around.  Is that good enough?

This same issue applies to other bands who made it big in the Seventies or even earlier.  I remember when Ray Charles would come play Wolf Trap (outside of D.C.) every year, and every year I’d say, “I really should see this living legend because one day he’ll be dead and I will regret never seeing him.”  Guess what?  I never saw him, and that one day has come to pass.

But there are also good reasons not to see these bands.  Nostalgia can be pathetic.  The once-lean rock stars may have become bloated by years of rich food and quality alcohol and drugs.  Their voices, especially their ability to hit high notes, may be shot.  The bands’ original drummers are often long dead, and other founding members may have been replaced by younger unknowns due to contractual disputes.  Unfortunately, ticket prices for these bands have not been frozen in time either – – they can be sky high.  And the bands’ classics, as well as videos of them in their hungry heyday, are usually available for download and on YouTube.

This is a personal decision.  I respect anyone who goes to the Nokia on July 23 for the live Steely Dan experience.  I’m sure it will be a terrific show.  But the main reason why I do not plan to see Steely Dan in concert is because, if rock and roll is about anything, it is about youth.  And the things that go with youth — sex, drugs, exuberance.  Especially exuberance. 

13 Replies to “They Got the Steely Dan T-Shirt”

  1. …but then The Dan was never about rock in its most conventional youth-oriented sense. They were more sophisticated, more intellectual, more about experimentation and their own extreme cleverness.

    I’m on the fence about going only because I already splurged for a massive nostalgia show this month…

  2. I’d go, but it’s on a Wednesday, I have to work the next day. Why can’t
    they have their concerts on Friday’s like everyone else?

  3. Will, I agree that if the goal is to catch a sophisticated down-tempo show in a jazz club setting, that could be really enjoyable. But I don’t think the Nokia is a jazz club setting. Anyway, I’m sure the Dan will put on a very good show.

  4. I’ve been disappointed more than a few times by nostalgia acts that had become old, fat, and were out of breath by the middle of the second song. I might like to catch Steely Dan, but have to pass. I’ve already got plans for too many shows this summer (and probably going to add too many more.)

    Sorry you missed Ray Charles. I saw him at the Hollywood Bowl and a couple of times at the Greek. Even toward the end, he still put on a great show. The Raylettes were half his age, and had to struggle to keep up with his energy.

  5. Burns, I learned my lesson with Ray Charles, and saw Tony Bennet a few summers ago at Wolf Trap. About 78 years old, he belted his songs out with energy for two hours, hitting all or nearly all of his notes. It was a pleasant surprise and really worthwhile.

  6. Number one reason to go? Because it’s freakin’ Steely Dan! First time I’ve wished we were still in LA,

  7. laexpat, I’m not sure where you’re located, but as the link in my post indicates, they’re touring in a lot of U.S. locations, and in Canada too.

  8. I’m a musician in my 30s so maybe not young by your standards. I respect your personal decision not to see them but it’s possible that the Dan have become even better musicians (and that’s saying something) and can really bring it in a way that some of the younger bands haven’t learned to yet. We don’t stop being musical because we age, and certainly tastes seem to favor the visually pleasing now rather than the aurally engaging. Though clearly there are still plenty of people willing to pay dearly for a quality of performance here that’s not exactly common and I am one.

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