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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2010/08/27
by Mike Gruenberg

The Dukes of September (Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs & Donald Fagen)

In My Life

What happens when you take the man who’s unmistakable voice as the former lead singer of the Doobie Brothers is added to the elegant blues/rock/jazz guitar styling’s of a man they call “Slim” and mix in a touch of ½ of the duo you knew as Steely Dan and combine those three with a nine piece band of incredible musicians as you sit on the grass on a beautiful Virginia summer evening? I’ll tell you. You applaud until your hands turn red. You shout until you can’t speak anymore and you smile all the way home knowing you have seen a concert that will forever live on in your mind.

On Sunday, August 22nd, I saw one of the twenty-two concerts that will be rolling across the country performed by the “Dukes of September” better known as Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and Donald Fagen. Each of them played some of the hits that made them famous, but they also played the songs that they listened to as they grew up in the same era as me. For a baby boomer like me, I was at home with the guys on stage. I was with my buds, with my peeps and loving it.

This tour is a reunion, of sorts for Michael, Boz and Donald. In March of 1991, they teamed up at the Beacon Theater in New York for one night along with Phoebe Snow, Eddie & Dave Brigati (formerly of the Rascals) and a cast of ace musicians which was then called the “New York Rock & Soul Revue”. Fortunately, that evening was captured on CD by Giant Records (9 24423-2). Don’t know if this album is still available at the usual record outlets but if not, it’s worth a trip to used record store to find it. I can only hope that the concert I just saw will be out on CD/Vinyl in the near future, although music from the first concert is remarkably similar to the one I saw this past week-end.

Much like the current tour, the NY Revue brought together musicians with a similarity of purpose in the styles of music they all loved as teenagers and budding musicians. In the liner notes of the NY Revue album written by Donald Fagen in July of 1991, he says “The Revue….provides an occasion for our group of like-minded players and singers to get together and perform the sort of music that inspired us to become musicians in the first place– the music we’d like to hear at a good party.”

Nineteen years later (“Hey Nineteen”) there’s Fagen on stage, acting as emcee for the band telling the audience the same things as he wrote on the liner notes so many years prior. The three musicians clearly honor the music, are making an extraordinary living from writing and performing that music and most of all, they still love their work. How many people can say that the still love their job after 30+ years doing the same work? The Dukes do! There was a joy to their playing that could be felt by every person in the audience.

At one point, there was a trumpet solo of a Boz Scaggs song. Boz looked back at the horn section and nodded approvingly to the young horn player who embellished his signature song. He then turned back to the audience and it was quite apparent that he was very impressed with this young guys chops. Fagen played the keyboards with enthusiasm and verve almost in a Ray Charles manner as he bounced back and forth. Michael McDonald, whose voice has not lost an octave since his early days got up from the piano bench at the end of the 2 ½ hour concert, shirt dripping with sweat with a huge grin on his face. By the way, they played continuously; no breaks and the time just flew by.

Among the hits from other artists that they played were:
• I’ve Got News For You by Ray Charles
• You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry
• Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing by Fontella Bass
• Love Train by The O’Jays
• Rock Steady by Aretha Franklin
• Sookie Sookie by Don Covay

They played three songs by The Band and when they played the Beach Boys classic, “Help Me Rhonda”, everyone in the audience sang along.

Evenings like this are magical and are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In these economic times where we all are probably being be more prudent in our spending patterns, which may mean that you have to stretch your concert dollar to only go to a limited amount of shows this year, save up your dollars and go to this one when the Dukes appear in your area. It will be worth it.

Coming to a venue in your town – Don’t Miss Them!

August 28: Raleigh, NC, Raleigh Amphitheatre
August 29: Richmond, VA, Innsbrook Pavilion
August 31: Boston, MA, Wang Theatre
September 2: Holmdel, NJ, PNC Bank Arts Center
September 3: Wantagh, NY, Jones Beach Theatre
September 6: St. Paul, MN, Minnesota State Fair
September 8: Detroit, MI, Fox Theatre
September 10: Cincinnati, OH, PNC Pavilion
September 11: Chicago, IL, Chicago Theatre
September 14: Council Bluffs, IA, Mid-America Center
September 15: Milwaukee, WI, Riverside Theater
September 17: Tunica, MS, Harrah’s Tunica
September 18: Kansas City, MO, Starlight Theatre
September 27: Denver, CO, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
September 29: Los Angeles, CA, Greek Theatre
October 1: San Francisco, CA, Golden Gate Park
October 2: Las Vegas, NV, The Joint

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