One-half of Steely Dan is gone, and the other half is coming through Missoula next week on the first full tour after Walter Becker’s death last fall.
Singer Donald Fagen planned the “Summer of Living Dangerously” tour partially in honor of his longtime partner, though as he told Rolling Stone in December, he doesn’t feel totally right touring as Steely Dan.
"I would actually prefer to call it Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan Band or something like that," Fagen told Brian Hiatt on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast. He said promoters insist that he call it Steely Dan for commercial reasons.
"That's an ongoing debate. To me, Steely Dan was just me and Walter, really — it was like a concept we had together."
The two had an agreement signed in 1972 that would give control of the band to one member if the other quit or died. The agreement was in question immediately after Becker’s death, when his estate claimed it was no longer valid.
Fagen’s attorney told Rolling Stone he didn’t have a problem with Becker’s estate earning royalties off of his work with Steely Dan, but felt the agreement should hold, giving Fagen 100 percent control over the group, its website and its music.
The non-commercial focus of Fagen is a lifelong trait. In a 1977 Cameron Crowe interview he said, "we're enormously naive about certain business realities that most people take for granted ... I think that's a good thing."
In the same interview, the two cop to paring down Steely Dan to just two members because of their shared dislike for touring, something they weren’t too excited to get back into for the release of “Aja.”
They didn’t tour from 1974 until they reunited in the early 1990s.
And now, after Becker’s death puts a permanent hold on a new Steely Dan record, Fagen is focused solely on touring, keeping his promise “to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can,” after Becker’s death.
He’s played without Becker before — health issues forced the guitar player to miss Steely Dan shows last summer, according to Rolling Stone, and he finished some fall 2017 obligations immediately after Becker’s death.
Fagen’s Steely Dan is pretty tight though, according to some fan video captured at shows earlier in the tour. Fagen’s voice — already rough in the ‘70s – has sort of matured into a full-on whiny growl, not unlike fellow oldie Bob Dylan and he still sits in front of the keyboard for most songs.
The set lists lean heavy on hits from Steely Dan’s 1977 album “Aja,” according to setlist.fm. The other three-quarters of the set pull from “Gaucho,” “Can’t Buy A Thrill,” and “Katy Lied.” Fagen sprinkles in a song or two of his own as well.
The Dan are supported by the Doobie Brothers, a natural pairing of ‘70s soft-rock hitmakers.
The two groups shared some members in the mid-‘70s as well, between guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and keyboardist/singer Michael McDonald doing work live and in the studio for both groups, although neither are still touring with the groups.
The Doobies are trotting out a lineup with two founding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, along with ‘80s-era guitarist John McFee.
"We've known the guys in Steely Dan for decades," Simmons told the Sun Herald earlier this spring. "We've toured with them many times, especially in the '70s."