Steely Dan at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Paul Wellman

Steely Dan at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Review: Steely Dan at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Together Again on August 20

Considering the tumultuous history, personnel and otherwise, of Steely Dan, it’s a wonder the band is still chugging along. More impressive, though, is that the team of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen can still craft a live show that genuinely lives up to its iconic recorded counterparts.

Donald Fagen
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Donald Fagen

On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara Bowl welcomed back Steely Dan’s two founding mainstays for a nearly 20-song set that included highlights from across the band’s 40-year run. Joined by an airtight 13-piece backing band, the duo sprinkled the hits throughout the night, starting off early with “Aja” and a hilariously aside-filled “Hey Nineteen” and closing strong with “Peg,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” and “Kid Charlemagne” in almost back-to-back succession. Of course, as memorable as the band’s hooks have proved to be over the years, it’s Fagen and Becker’s chops — and quips — that have helped elevate the band to legendary status. As such, Tuesday’s show contained its fair share of sarcastic asides, bizarre non sequiturs, and dizzying solos. In the first third, Becker got to flex his blues-guitar muscles on “Black Friday”; later, Fagen dazzled on the melodica for “Time Out of Mind.”

Walter Becker
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Walter Becker

Of course, we could argue in defense of some forgotten favorites. (“Do It Again” was sorely missed; “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More” easily could have been.) But for most diehards, this Steely Dan was still as good as any — and much better than the majority of their still-touring contemporaries.


1. “Blueport” (Gerry Mulligan cover)

2. “Your Gold Teeth”

3. “Aja”

4. “Hey Nineteen”

5. “Show Biz Kids”

6. “Black Friday”

7. “I Got the News”

8. “Time Out of Mind”

9. “Godwhacker”

10. “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More”

11. “Bodhisattva”

12. “Razor Boy”

13. “Babylon Sisters”

14. “I Want To (Do Everything for You)” (Joe Tex cover)

15. “Josie”

16. “Peg”

17. “My Old School”

18. “Reelin’ in the Years”


19. “Kid Charlemagne”

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