Philly.com: David R. Stampone: 5th August 2015.
Should it surprise anybody that Elvis Costello and his rugged yet nuanced backing trio the Imposters worked so well on a bill with the urbane, sophisticated Steely Dan on Monday at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center? Hardly. There are degrees of undeniable jazz-tinged commonality between the two veteran rock-rooted acts, more apparent through the years. Even a taut Costello track like 1981's "Clubland" was well-nigh Dan-ish at times on Monday, with longtime keyboard accompanist Steve Nieve's expansive Latinesque piano swells and Costello's spicy guitar work on the now more open-spaced live tune.
The fact is, going back to when he was pegged as an "angry young man" of British New Wave in the late '70s, Costello and company have negotiated all manner of ostensibly odd billings. (A local standout: opening for prog-gone-pop behemoths Genesis in August '82, at South Philly's long-gone JFK Stadium.)
At the Susq, Costello noted how happy he was to be a special guest of "The Dan of Steel" (as he termed them), barreling through more than a dozen diverse, career-spanning songs in an hour. Treats included recent deep cuts like "Flutter and Wow" and "Condemned Man," while a funked-up "Everyday I Write the Book" brought most to their feet. The '78 vintage "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" was extended by many a shout-out to Philly musicians past and present, concluding with Questlove and the Roots, Costello's collaborators on their 2013 Wise Up Ghost album.
Steely Dan's two-hour headlining retrospective set ensued, a more leisurely affair with idiosyncratic peaks and valleys. Early on, Queens-born guitarist-singer Walter Becker went on a five-minute spoken semi-rant in the middle of "Hey Nineteen," effectively greeting the crowd, predicting a possible post-concert scenario, and trying to recall the tequila product named in the lyric. The three "Danettes" backup singers chimed in on cue: "The Cuervo Gold . . . "
Donald Fagen, the sardonic singer-keyboardist in shades from North Jersey with whom Becker has been making music for almost 50 years, sat behind his keys through gems like "Black Friday," "Bodhisattva," and show-closer "Kid Charlemagne," strolling about while playing a fine melodica on a memorable "Time Out of Mind."
The 13-piece band, replete with four horns, gave everything a consummate take. Before Becker and Fagen emerged, the ensemble opened with an especially spry reading of Oliver Nelson's 1961 goldie "Teenie's Blues." While, say, the biting, acidic guitar-fill sizzle of the studio version of "My Old School" was missed in the live setting, extensively talented lead guitarist John Herington brought refreshing chops to many a Steely song. Who knows? One of these years, maybe an ever-game and capable singing guitar-stylist (and Steely Dan fan) like Costello himself might creatively mingle with fellow sixtysomethings Becker and Fagen - a good idea.