Fagen, McDonald And Scaggs, Join Forces At Riverbend
By Alan Sculley
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs all have no problem finding demand for doing their own tours, and they certainly enjoy performing songs from their catalogs.
But as rewarding as it might be for Fagen, for instance, to tour in Steely Dan with his long-time partner in that group, Walter Becker, he said there’s nothing quite like the show he’s taking on the road now with McDonald and Scaggs, called the Dukes Of September Rhythm Revue.
The show will feature the three stars performing a few of their hits, as well as favorite songs by other artists.
“It’s in a way the most fun kind of show to do, because it gives the audience a lot of variety, so it never gets boring,” Fagen said. “It’s fun for the other musicians to do something they don’t usually do. And I think there’s a great tradition in it. Like I know in New York here, everyone always talks about these great shows at the Paramount where they used to do, you know, like the Motown reviews and soul revues, that you’d get to see Otis Redding and Sam Cook and all these great acts, all on one stage with one band. I think that’s sort of where these kind of things derived.”
Fagen didn’t have any problem recruiting McDonald and Scaggs for the Dukes tour.
“The minute it was mentioned, I think we all just went, ‘Oh yes we’d love to do that,’”
McDonald said. “It’s almost self-indulgent for us. And doing the old stuff is really the more self-indulgent part for us, because we probably enjoy that even more than playing our own stuff.”
Fagen is no stranger to this sort of tour. From 1989 through 1993 he assembled several series of concerts called the New York Rock & Soul Revue. The shows brought together a variety of established solo artists to perform not only a few of their own songs, but plenty of classic soul and R&B material. The 1993 edition of that tour included McDonald and Scaggs.
By that time, Fagen and McDonald were already long-time friends. McDonald played in Steely Dan in the 1970s before he went on to join the Doobie Brothers and become the voice behind some of that band’s biggest hits (“What A Fool Believes” and “Minute By Minute,” to name two).
Fagen and McDonald got to know Scaggs (who rose to fame with his 1976 album Silk Degrees) on the 1993 tour, and in the teleconference interview, the camaraderie the three showed made it clear they remain
They are all clearly fans of each other’s work and say one of the highlights of the Dukes Of September tour will be hearing – and playing on – each other’s songs during the shows.
The fact that Fagen, McDonald and Scaggs didn’t call this tour the “Rock & Soul Revue” is perhaps a hint that the repertoire will stretch beyond Motown and rhythm and blues material.
They offered some hints on some of the music they are considering for the shows.
Fagen said he wants to do the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.”
“It wasn’t the typical Grateful Dead song because it had a kind of dance beat to it,” he said. “I think they were kind of cashing in on the disco craze or something like that. But it’s a fantastic song with a beautiful lyric and it gets a great response every time that we do it. And so I think I’m going to try to put that in
McDonald said he’s eyeing a Ray Charles song, “I Got News” as one of highlights for his set.
Another possibility is raiding the song catalog of the Band.
“Each of us is going pick a song, so we’ve been sort of going through a lot of The Band’s material,” Scaggs said. “Each of us has sort of listened and dug them a lot over the years…So that’s a particularly exciting little bit of real estate that we’re looking at for the show.”
They won’t, however, try to replicate the original versions of the cover songs they perform.
“Stylistically we’re going to have to just own that song,” Scaggs said. “We’re going to have to find our own way to possess that song. And it’s really driven by trying to find the spirit of that song and adapting our instruments and our voices to make it work. That’s going to be a challenge.”
And as for just why the three artists chose the tour title Dukes Of September, Fagen
said it was something of
an homage to doo-wop groups of the 1950s.
“You have to choose names for royalty, the earls, the dukes,” he said. “And then September, aside from the fact that we’ll be touring in September, I think this kind of allusion to our collective ages in that – in the sense that, say the Kurt Weill song, ‘September Song’ would also use September as a metaphor in that sense. But that’s basically the way it worked out.”
The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue concert will be held Friday, September 10 at 8 p.m. at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati. Tickets are priced at $25-$79.50. For more information, visit http://Riverbend.org
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at firstname.lastname@example.org