Last Night: Dukes of September Rhythm Revue at The Woodlands

Dukes July 18 1.jpg
Photos by Jason Wolter
Dukes of September Rhythm Revue
Featuring Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs & Donald Fagen
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 17, 2012

This show could have been a punchline waiting to happen. Somebody must have thought "Dukes of September" was a more regal name for this tour than the "Superstars of Soft Rock," but it was the same thing.

What we had here at the Woodlands Pavilion Tuesday night was Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Texas-born Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, apparently estranged again from the Doobie Brothers (who are actually at the Pavilion with Chicago this Sunday). The snowy-haired trio was supported and nearly upstaged a couple of times by two female vocalists and a seven-piece band featuring keyboardist Jim Beard, whom Fagen explained is kind of a big deal in jazz circles. (He is.)

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As much as anyone, the hawkish, angular Fagan played master of ceremonies, occasionally introducing his fellow Dukes or popping out behind his baby grand to play some kind of synthesizer/recorder hybrid that sounded like a tinny harmonica. Dispensing with any forced-sounding banter, the three headliners were content to keep their interaction to a musical level, which seemed to satisfy both themselves and the crowd.

The show was a revue in the old-school sense of the word, with the three mixing familiar favorites with songs engineered to highlight the three Dukes' particular talents and triumphs. Thus it opened with a couple of songs seemingly picked from the racks of Hollywood romcom montages -- "Who's That Lady?", Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music" -- and sprinkled crowd-pleasers like Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell," Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In the City," and, of course, "Takin' It to the Streets" all the way through to Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)" and Band of Gypsys' "Them Changes" in the encore. Each of the featured female vocalists got a chance to shine, on "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Piece of My Heart."

But soft-rock jokes aside, what it eventually revealed is that Scaggs and McDonald are two of the elite blue-eyed soul men on the planet, particularly Scaggs on the triumvirate of Muddy Waters' "The Same Thing," Teddy Pendergrass' "Love TKO" and his own velvety Silk Degrees treasure "Lowdown." McDonald, for his part, picked up an accordion and gave "You Never Can Tell" a Cajun twirl, and put some real gut into his lead vocal on Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now."

Fagen's contributions were a little bit different. Although his first lead vocal was another R&B deep cut, Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man," the handful of Steely Dan songs he sang spotlighted shady characters like notorious '60s LSD chemist Owsley Stanley ("Kid Charlemagne") and vapid near-jailbait "Hey Nineteen" in arrangements that engaged the entire band (especially lead guitarist John Huntington) and reaffirmed their reputation as some of the slickest, most cynical music ever to be called pop.

Tuesday evening was incontrovertible proof that the "yacht rock" fad has run its course among younger listeners; if there was anyone there younger than 40 besides myself, I didn't see them. It was merely a night of first-class musicianship and songs that have stood the test of time -- but not only that, songs that haven't lost their appeal even after you've heard them a million times before.

Location Info

Venue

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Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

2005 Lake Robbins Drive, Spring, TX

Category: Music

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6 comments
midnitemgt
midnitemgt

Hey Chris

Michael McDonald has not been part of the Doobie Brothers since 1981 and has only performed with the band  handful of times for charity or benefit concerts. to say he is once again estranged from the band is not correct 

The band has toured and recorded several albums for the most part with all the original members from pre McDonald adding other musicians along the way when needed. Two original members have passed on both of which were due to cancer.  

drummer  Keith Knudsen in 2005 and most recently drummer Michael Hossack  March 12, 2012.

Please do some research before you decide to write .

 

Pieflap
Pieflap

The guitarist's name is Jon Herington

marmer
marmer

I'm guessing most of the people there would have been just as happy with an all-Steely Dan set list.  But Boz and Michael were very class acts.  Wasn't it "Miss Sun" with the duet between Boz and Catherine the backup singer which was the first thing to bring the audience to its feet?  Right on about the younger folks.  My wife and I brought our daughter, her boyfriend, and another friend.  They were rocking their butts off and they were the only teenagers we saw there.  Maybe one younger kid, probably visiting his grandparents.

Rocks Off
Rocks Off

Perhaps "estranged" wasn't the right word, because I did see that he has appeared as a "special guest" with the Doobies many times since leaving the group. Thanks Bob.

Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

I'm an admitted fan of all three artists and have seen them individually and together many times. But what I appreciated about this kind of show last night (aside from the incredible musicianship) is that these three men - who have headlined thousands of concerts on their own - seemed to be having...well..fun not having to carry the whole burden, and just acting as sidemen for each other.  And while I would have liked a few more of their own hits and some less-obvioius soul covers ("Grapevine?" "Sweet Soul Music?"), Fagen's "Trouble Man," McDonald's "If You Don't Know Me By Now," and Scaggs' "Love TKO" were treats. P.S. - McDonald is not estranged from the Doobies and is still friendly with them and performs with them occasionally. Since the band's late '80s reformation, original lead singer Tom Johnston has been the main front man. 

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