On a beautiful Wednesday evening, folks were rushing to get their seats to “The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue,” a show that Donald Fagen of Steely Dan started up back in 2010 with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. The project is a resurrection of the previous New York Rock and Soul Revue which featured the same three musicians and played a combination of hits from the members respective careers as well as a wide variety of covers.
Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald began working together in the mid-1970s when McDonald would collaborate with Steely Dan, singing and playing keyboards on a lot of their material. The two worked together again during the early 1990s in the short lived New York Rock and Soul Revue which also included Boz Scaggs, Phoebe Snow, Eddie Brigati, David Brigati, Charles Brown, Walter Becker (of Steely Dan), Cornelius Bumpus and Mindy Jostyn.
With the bill strong as ever tonight, I was just waiting to see how they would each bring their own game. The big disappointment of the night is the disaster that has become Michael McDonald. When he was in The Doobie Brothers in the 70’s, his voice was up to par, but as years grew on, he obviously cannot hit the high notes that he used to. Every time McDonald had a high note to sing during the show, he would “cheat” the mic, by singing to the side of the microphone. That was very disappointing, since he “used to” be one of my favorites. McDonald sang through most of his old Doobie songs including “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” “What A Fool Believes” and “Takin’ It to the Streets.”
Donald Fagen was the highlight of the show. As I am not the biggest fan of Boz Scaggs, I’ve always loved the music of Steely Dan. Fagen took charge of the whole show, and when it came time to perform some Steely Dan songs, he was all over it. With songs like “Pretzel Logic,” “Kid Charlamagne,” “Hey Nineteen,” “Peg” and “Reelin’ in the Years,” Fagen proves he still has the chops to sing his own music. With facial and body antics like Joe Cocker, Fagen kept his Rhythm Revue alive with not just Steely Dan songs but other R&B artists’ songs too like “Who’s That Lady” by Isley Brothers, “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful,” “Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly & The Family Stone and “People Get Up” by James Brown.
Boz Scaggs was another highlight of the night. As I said before about how I am not a personal fan, the crowd sure did love him. Playing his hit songs like “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle,” everyone was so happy to hear those songs played to perfection. Scaggs also showed off on other songs too like “The Same Thing” by Willie Dixon, “Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry and “Love TKO” by Teddy Pendergrass.
The Rhythm Revue wouldn’t have been complete without the excellent backup vocals of Catherine Russell and Carolyn Leonhart. Those two together knocked all three of the featured singers out of the park. Russell blew everyone away with an outstanding version of “Piece of My Heart” originally by Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma Franklin, later covered by Janis Joplin. She later dueted with Scaggs on a great rendition of Boz’s songs “Miss Sun.”
Overall, this was a great show with great classics by great and legendary artists. Russell, Scaggs and Fagen brought the house down tonight. I only wish McDonald can focus on getting his notes right the next time around. It would be interesting if Fagen got more people involved. Special props for the night go to guitarist Jon Herington who was freakin’ outstanding throughout the night!
Dukes of September Rhythm Revue Setlist:
People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul / James Brown – vocal: Leonhart & Russell
That Lady / Isley Brothers – vocal: Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs
Sweet Soul Music / Arthur Conley – vocal: Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs
I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) / Doobie Brothers – vocal: McDonald
Trouble Man / Marvin Gaye – vocal: Fagen
Kid Charlamagne / Steely Dan) – vocal: Fagen
The Same Thing / Willie Dixon – vocal: Scaggs
Miss Sun / Scaggs – vocal: Scaggs and Catherine Russell
Heard It Through The Grapevine / Gladys Knight – vocal: Carolyn Leonhart
Never Can Tell / Chuck Berry – vocal: Scaggs
Summer In The City / Lovin’ Spoonful – vocal: Fagen
If You Don’t Know Me By Now / Melvin & the Bluenotes – vocal: McDonald
What A Fool Believes / Doobie Brothers – vocal: McDonald
Hey Nineteen / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen
Love TKO / Teddy Pendergrass – vocal: Scaggs
Piece Of My Heart / Erma Franklin – vocal: Catherine Russell
Peg / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen
Lowdown / Scaggs – vocal: Scaggs
Takin’ It To The Streets / Doobie Brothers – vocal: McDonald and Catherine Russell
Reelin’ In The Years / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen
Lido Shuffle / Boz Scaggs – vocal: Scaggs
Pretzel Logic / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs
Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) / Sly & the Family Stone – vocal: Leonhart & Russell
Them Changes / Buddy Miles – vocal: McDonald
People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul (reprise) / James Brown – vocal: Leonhart & Russell
Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 8/22/12