STEELY Dan fans were royally treated on Tuesday night (February 1) when Simply Dan took to the stage at Pizza Express Live in London’s Holborn.
For two hours, bar a short intermission, this band rattled off a string of Steely Dan songs from the 1970s – hits and lesser known songs – as if they were working on a Steely Dan production line. They didn’t let up for one moment – it was as if they were on piece rates.
Not that the audience minded. To a man and woman they were Steely Dan fans and wanted as much Steely as they could get to accompany their generous portions of pizza and Soave wine.
Simply Dan, formed six years ago, doesn’t do anything by half measures. Although the heart of the band revolves around frontman Mark Roadnight, guitarist extraordinaire Russ Parker, drummer Mark Claydon, Roger Evans (keys) and David McLeod (bass), there is more. A scintillating horn section, comprising saxophones galore and a lone trumpet, add to the sound. As do two female backing vocalists who provide tender backing to Roadnight’s vocals.
The hits come thick and fast – the likes of Babylon Sisters, Kid Charlemagne, and Rikki Don’t Lose That Number. After a short intermission, there’s The Fez, Green Earrings, Aja, Do It Again, Deacon Blues and Reelin’ In The Years. The finale is My Old School.
But it’s the lesser known Steely Dan material that is most fascinating: Parker’s Band, Barrytown (the first time that Simply Dan has covered it live) and Bodhisattva (with a super interchange between Parker and the horns).
Indeed Parker is the star of the night as he sprinkles his magic on a host of Steely Dan songs – Kid Charlemagne, Black Friday, Pretzel Logic, Green Earrings and My Old School (dazzling). He almost steals the show.
The track of the night? Do It Again by a country mile. It’s here that the horn section is allowed to sing for its proverbial supper. And boy do they sparkle – with the baritone saxophone finding lows below the depth of London’s ailing underground system.
Simply Dan feed the audience what they want. It’s effective, it’s entertaining and hugely listenable. Donald Fagan, who founded Steely Dan with the late Walter Becker, would be proud of them for sure.