Steely Dan Plays a Winning Hand at The Venetian

Opaline Theater at The Venetian, April 12

Erik Kabik Photography/

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have been working together for 50 years. There’s been time off for both good and bad behavior, but when they’re together as Steely Dan, the alchemy is golden.

The pair has always recruited the best musicians, and the band that’s here in Las Vegas is absolutely top-notch. Every member of the rock ‘n’ roll orchestra gets to shine, in particular the Dan-ettes, three women who must gargle with butter, their sound is so smooth. There’s a great horn section, including eminent jazz trombonist Jim Pugh. Long-time Steely Dan guitarist Jon Herington plays tasty leads, and knows he has the best gig on the planet.

A couple from Seattle, who have seen SD 11 times collectively, said this was the best the band had ever sounded. This is mainly due to their sublime time-keeper, Keith Carlock, whose “pocket” is deeper than those of the owner of the Venetian, Mr. Adelson. Donald Fagan opined that Carlyle is the best drummer of his generation. This is no hyperbole: He gave new rhythmic life to much of the Steely Dan oeuvre.

Lighting and sound get kudos for sensitive, useful cues as to whom was being featured—and there was a lot to feature, with 13 great musicians on stage. Becker and Fagan may be getting on in years, but they’ve surrounded themselves with stellar, unselfish talent. Smart, as was this show.