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Review Mon Jul 27 2015

Reelin' in the Years with Steely Dan at Ravinia

The cultural melange of the late 1960s contributed mightily to the history of rock music, producing out-size heroes and legends whose names we all recognize. But of the more durable acts is one whose longevity seems, on the face, somewhat surprising. Almost a month on from the pomp of the Grateful Dead's farewell blowout at Soldier Field, another odd artifact, Steely Dan, quietly sold out Ravinia's expansive grounds for a pair of concerts that served well to highlight other aspects of the 1960s and '70s music scene.

The creative engine of the group, the partnership between Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, was born when the two met at Bard College. After a stint in New York, the pair moved to LA, where work began on their debut album, Can't Buy A Thrill. With the success of that album, the Steely Dan partnership was cemented, and a unique sound was forged. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Steely Dan veered sharply away from the boogie based psychedelia and oft-indulgent noodling of other bands of similar vintage. In its place were multi┬Člayered melodies, intricate studio production, and hyper-literate, often inscrutable lyrics that wove seamy vignettes of '70s hustlers and hucksters. No pie-eyed longhairs twirling through these songs, but the weird guy in the corner at the party with the clench-jawed grin and leather jacket. It was a formula that worked well on record, and served the band as it transitioned to a purely studio act in the mid-'70s and released a string of successful records through 1980's Gaucho. The band was silent through the 1980s, but the '90s saw a trickle of new material and renewed focus on touring with top-notch pick up bands to back the band's core duo.

Saturday night's show at Ravinia seemed an appropriate for the band. Not necessarily known for on-stage pyrotechnics, it was a rock-solid revue of many of their major works throughout their career. The band turned in a consummately professional performance, with standout performances by drummer Keith Carlock and guitarist Jon Herington. Highlights of the classic-heavy set included spirited renditions of "Aja" and "Bhodisattva," and an interesting arrangement of "Show Biz Kids." The satisfied crowd of graying rockers shuffled to the lots, shuttles, and trains having enjoyed an act that has managed to stay vital and remain a touchstone to music's shared history.

 
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Josh / July 27, 2015 9:31 AM

Not really fair to characterize the audience as a crowd of graying rockers. That was probably the most diverse crowd I've ever seen at Ravinia, across ages and races.

Zach / July 27, 2015 10:33 AM

^ I don't know about that...at least in the pavilion, I could count the number of people younger than 40 on one hand. Maybe the lawn was more diverse.

Gary Berman / July 27, 2015 12:13 PM

Would have been much more enjoyable if walter hadn't taken 35 minutes to introduce the band

midik / July 27, 2015 3:08 PM

reeling in the dik

rikki don't lose that dik

black dik

kid diklamagne

C Lo / July 27, 2015 11:53 PM

What a garbage review. Go back to boys' town.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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