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Steely Dan Plays "The Royal Scam" at E.J. Thomas Hall

By malcolm Published: November 18, 2009

Steely Dan returned to the stage of the University of Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall Tuesday, for the second show of their two-night stand at the venue to perform their 1976 album The Royal Scam in its entirety.

Shortly after backup singer Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery placed the needle on the record on the turntable at the front of the stage, signifying the beginning of what singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen later referred to as the "epic portion" of the night, the band tore into crowd favorite (and Royal Scam opener) King Charlemagne.
Unfortunately, a few bars into the song a malfunction backstage triggered an alarm adding some unneeded and unwanted flashing lights and a high pitched tone presumably designed to let concert goers know to run screaming from the building waving their arms wildly.

The band either couldn't here the alarm over their own grooves or were simply in "keep playing until someone who signs checks says otherwise" mode, but for the first few moments of the sound it was difficult for many fans to discern of if they should keep singing along or if they should start running for the nearest exit (there are no center aisles at E.J. Thomas, so a panicked exit would have been extra ugly).
The alarm continued through most of an otherwise groovy Caves of Altamira and periodically went off and on a few more times during the two hours show.

Nevertheless, once folks seemed reasonably sure that the easy grooving Sign In Stranger wasn't going to be the last song they ever heard, the crowd -- which like the Monday show was a mix of middle aged fans with a healthy heaping of younger folks and families -- was not hesitant to show their approval. They sang along with the aforementioned tunes and gave the band a standing ovation and frequently applauded the many soloists throughout the night.

Since The Royal Scam is not as lushly arranged or orchestrated as Aja guitarist Jon Herington was frequently in the spotlight playing fluid lead lines on The Fez sung by the trio of female vocalists while principles Walter Becker and Donald Fagen took an offstage break. Becker and Herington had some nice guitar duels on Green Earring and the reggae based Haitian Divorce, though Herington eschewed the talk box used on the recording.

Following The Royal Scam, the band played a second set that was similar to Monday night though with Aja songs in place of the Royal Scam tunes played the night before.

Hey 19 once again became a head-nodding sing-a-long but Becker's mid-song "rant" leading to the "Cuervo Gold, the fine Columbian" line (also sing-a-long) was a bit longer and more humorous. Showbiz Kids was given a stronger funky James Brown flavored beat and Herington really tore up his fretboard on Peg.

Just as the night before the evening began with a short set from the Chicago based Deep Blue Organ Trio who ably performed the same set from the previous night. The original composition A Deeper Blue, a toe-tapping blues shuffle take on Earth Wind & Fire's R&B ballad Can't Hide Love and a swinging take on the standard These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You).
The trio wasn't to everyone in the crowd's taste, but blind Hammond B3 organist Chris Foreman at times seemed to be channeling the late great Jimmy Smith and guitarist Bobby Broom soulfull improvisations did get many toes tapping.

This is the Tueday night's setlist. There may be a mistake in the second set as I dropped my notebook on the floor right into a small puddle of someone's spilled drink, making some of my notes difficult to decipher.....I'm pretty sure Steely Dan doesn't have a song called Chinese FoamToad

Kid Charlemagne
Caves of Altamira
Don't Take Me Alive
Sign In Stranger
The Fez
Green Earrings
Haitian Divorce
Everything You Did
The Royal Scam
Hey 19
Dirty Work
Black Friday
Daddy Don't Live In The New York City No More
Third World Man
Showbiz Kids
Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart/Band Intros
My Old School
Reelin' In The Years




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