Dukes of September Bring Rhythm & Blues to Musikfest
By Matt Smith | The Express-Times
It is unclear why a trio of musicians, each with over 40 years in the music industry, decided to perform as The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue.
But those three men -- Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, and soulful singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs -- brought with them a set list containing some of their favorite obscure classic R&B, soul, and rock 'n' roll tunes to perform tonight at the Sands Steel Stage during Musikfest.
It might sound a little self-indulgent for these performers to travel around the country playing songs they didn't write just because they feel like it, while between them they have such a huge catalog of original music. But that's not what this show was about.
After walking on the stage, McDonald and Fagen retreating behind pianos and Scaggs strapping on a guitar, took turns singing verses on "Who's That Lady."
Following the Isley Brothers number, 64-year-old Fagen, who was like the spokesman for the band, proclaimed, "We are the Dukes of September. We are here in August. ... Go figure." After a laugh from the crowd, Fagen continued, "Sit back, relax, and have a good time."
The trio came together back in 2010 to tour after originally working together in the New York Rock and Soul Revue, put together by Fagen and his wife back in the late 1980s through early 1990s. With the updated lineup came the updated name.
While the set was comprised mostly of the music by which The Dukes were heavily influenced, they did not exclude songs they penned. The 60-year-old McDonald, or "White Lightning" as Fagen called him, belted out one of his highest charting solo singles, "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." While the fans gathered beneath the former Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces were into the show from the start, that one really got them moving in their seats.
A single spotlight later shone on Fagen as he ascended to the stage front and center and stood alone at the microphone to conspicuously sing his way through Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man." After returning to his piano bench, he stated simply, "It's about time for a Steely Dan song," which drew the loudest roar of the concert at that point. That Steely Dan song was "Kid Charlemagne," on which McDonald sang backup vocals on the original track off 1976's "The Royal Scam," and which was full of energy driven by guitarist Jon Herington's blazing solo to close the song.
Herington was one of the many backing musicians on stage that made up the band that has also toured with Steely Dan over the past few years, including their appearance at last year's Musikfest.
Fagen continued dishing out titles, calling Boz Scaggs, 68, "the gentleman of the blues," who peaked commercially back in 1976 with the album "Silk Degrees" and the hit single "Lido Shuffle." But it was the 1980 song "Miss Sun" off the compilation "Hits!" that Scaggs delivered. As the show moved on, with more classics from Chuck Berry, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and The Lovin' Spoonful being refreshed in the minds of those listening to the Dukes, the question remained -- who had the most to gain from the show?
The musicians on stage who appeared to be thoroughly enjoying playing the very music that inspired them at their earliest start, or the people in the seats who got the chance to be reminded of the moments attached to some of those songs in their own early years? It didn't really matter. For one hot and muggy summer night, everyone assembled both on stage and off was brought together to rally behind the music.
Which, in the end, is what this show was really about.
Posted: Friday 10 August 2012