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Steely Dan at the Northrop: I saw your parents drunk!

Categories: Concert Review
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Photos by Nick Vlcek, click here for slideshow.

Waiting in the cavernous Northrop Auditorium for Steely Dan to take the stage Sunday night on the Minneapolis stop of their "Rent Party '09" tour (on this night featuring front-to-back the classic album Aja and on other nights, The Royal Scam), I felt a little out of my element. Not surprisingly, I was surrounded by your parents. Not my parents - I'd likely never see them at a Steely Dan concert - but yours. And where I didn't see my parents I saw people my age, but they were yuppies. They were recently-graduated lawyers who drink chardonnay in their downtown condos while rocking out to classics like "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and, when it gets a little late in the night, maybe a little Steve Miller, "The Joker" specifically, while the "crazy" friend passes a gigantic bong.

It's only a matter of minutes before someone asks me if I'm ever going to get married! If I've met a nice young man yet! If I'd like to be set up with the newly-divorced young partner at their firm!

As Steely Dan's backing band -- likely the finest musicians core members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen could find -- took the stage to play some super-square jazz (not the kind you'll likely find Steve covering here, even though he is a professed Dan fan), I closed my eyes and tried to escape this room full of your parents before I began to hyperventilate. (No I'm never gonna meet a nice young man get off my back already!)

I imagined myself in a wood-paneled basement rec room party with Chicago and the Pat Metheny Group. Chicago's in the corner with the coke. Metheny and company are sipping wine coolers. You look left. You look right. What to do? Your parents would kill you if they found out you did coke with Chicago. And drinking Bartles & Jaymes with Metheny? You're cooler than that. But hey, look over there in the corner - The Dan is smoking weed cross-legged on the shag rug. In my fantasy they're in black turtlenecks. One of these dorks is wearing a beret. The other, a kimono. Let's hang with them - they're cool, but "safe."

I opened my eyes to find this crowd full of your parents going absolutely nuts - the collective Dan was taking the stage to kick off coverage of Aja with its first track, "Black Cow." Okay Nikki, you're okay. You're smoking weed with these guys. No one's going to harass you about being single at nearly 30. No one's going to set you up with a young attorney. It's okay. Wait is that a goddamned melodica? Yes, Fagen is playing the melodica.

Screw it. You're not smoking weed with these guys. These guys are nerds. From here, things become surreal. Clean but technically unimpressive solos from the backing band are met with wild applause from Dan fans, then fists are pumped and metal horns thrown by an audience that probably both thinks this is as rocking as rock gets and as jazzy as jazz gets. As we hear Aja from start to finish, Steely Dan then playing its title track followed by "Deacon Blues," my row-mate (serendipitously, I ended up with seats next to two displaced Uptown - R.I.P. - employees) pointed out that one of the background singers had at the beginning ceremoniously put a copy of Aja on a turntable on stage. Can things get nerdier? Yes. As the band completes its rendition of Side A, the singer flips this record to signal their performance of Side B, featuring "Peg," "Home at Last," and "I Got the News." Can we get even nerdier? My row-mate pointed out that from the record's white label, he could tell it was the Mobile Fidelity version of the album.

Where the hell am I?


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