Dukes of September are Super
By Jodi Duckett, Of The Morning Call
August 9, 2012
Here's the lowdown on Dukes of September Rhythm Revue.
Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen have a really good thing going. And that's a really good thing for fans of the poppy, jazzy, bluesy, soulful hybrid styles of the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Scaggs that hooked us in the 1970s and stayed under our skin for 40 years.
The supergroup put on a fabulous two-hour concert at Musikfest's Sands Steel Stage on Wednesday night that felt a little like the Big Band revues of really olden days, but with the music of a classic rock generation and a little less showmanship.
A terrific nine-piece band with two female singers backed the trio, helping to bring some of the biggest hits of the 1970s to life —Scaggs' "Lowdown," the Doobies' "What a Fool Believes" and "Takin' it to the Streets," and Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne" and "Hey 19."
At the risk of repeating myself, these were the real deals singing their own songs — and all in one concert — and backing each other up. As Fagen said by way of introduction, "Mike, Boz and I are going to be playing tunes from when we were getting into the business."
What an understatement.
Each member of the "Dukedom," as Fagen called them, took lead on their own songs and did them justice all these years later. McDonald and Fagen spent most of the night at their pianos; Scaggs in front with his guitar. Each delivered signature musical riffs and hit their share of vocal high notes.
But the show wasn't just a parade of their own hits. Some of the best numbers were covers of old funk, soul and blues tunes — Scaggs taking lead early on the funky "Who's That Lady?" to get the crowd pumped, Fagen a cool cat on his feet immersed in Marvin Gaye's bluesy "Trouble Man." Scaggs was smooth and sexy on Muddy Waters' "The Same Thing."
The show gave backup band members well-deserved solo time. Hitting all the right notes was guitarist Jon Herington, who really stood out as he delivered the signature riffs on Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years," which wrapped up the main set.
And the girls came to the front for several songs. Catherine Russell's duet with Scaggs on "Miss Sun" was downright titillating, and Carolyn Leonhardt was exceptional on a solo of Gladys Knight and the Pips' version of "Heard it Through the Grapevine." It didn't detract from the focus.
Fagen acted as emcee of sorts. He introduced the Dukes — Michael "White Lightning" McDonald and "The gentleman of the blues" Boz Scaggs. He introduced the band members. And he introduced the songs, sometimes explaining which version of a cover they were doing, such as the Erma Franklin (Aretha's sister) version of "Piece of My Heart" (sung by Russell).
I don't think McDonald and Scaggs said a word except to sing.
Given that most of the band were members of Steely Dan's touring ensemble and Fagen led the show, it definitely had a rhythm similar to the Steely Dan tour that came to Musikfest last year. But, for my taste, this was triple the pleasure.
Posted: Saturday 11 August 2012