Resort World Arena (NEC), Birmingham
A splendid double bill from a now-Beckerless Dan, and a percussion-heavy Steve Winwood. Both did excellent sets of their most well-known tracks, Winwood only doing one song from his solo work (a shame, in my book, as the eponymous album and “Arc of the Diver” are particularly brilliant). That said, this is a guy who could do a 3-hour set and leave some fans disappointed, such are his musical bones. Steely Dan were as tight as a gnat’s chuff, and sounded very classy, with a PA that did wonders even in a grim box like the ‘Resort World Arena’ (forever the NEC to me, mate). The lights were slick and pretty but a little over-busy I thought, but that’s a churlish complaint given that back catalogue, which was heavily (6/7 tracks) oriented to “Aja”, with a couple of slight surprises (I expected a duet with Steve Winwood, and they did so on “Pretzel Logic”), “Green Earrings”, and a couple of semi-solo pieces (“Cubano Chant”, “”Keep the Same Old Feeling”, and “A Man a’int Supposed to Cry” by the band to open, break, and end the set). Don was cheerful, and slyly witty in his few comments.
My kids dragged down the mean substantially, and at 58 I was younger than many. But responsive. Not sure what the dad-dancing in a few was about, but old folks are supposed to mobilise, i suppose. There were a few empty rows, and I reckon the gig was about 85% full, though the back terrace of the NEC closed. I was a little disappointed when many of the crowd stormed out during the band’s closing number without Don (the final jazz track named above) as it seemed a bit rude to these folks doing such a good job, but the leaving of the NEC is a pain in the neck, what with either a long wait for a shuttle bus, or a 10 min walk to the car park (and then a fair bit of car park faff to get out even then).
It made me think..
Steely Dan’s (and Steve Winwood’s) music remains brilliant, and the performers likewise. I know it’s a cliche from an old fart, but I really don’t think that there are musicians or a band from the 90s or beyond which can deliver such quality in terms of tunes or performance. Though I’d like the more obscure tracks, doubtless much of the audience doesn’t, and that’s that.