Thursday 2nd February 2023
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent
The Beaverwood resembles a large wedding marquee, and tonight the venue welcomed a turnout of over a hundred people awaiting the return of the 10-piece tribute big band Simply Dan. No elaborate puns on the original group here, this act let their music do the talking in surroundings that are conducive for an evening of what the press once-dubbed “Yacht Rock” of Steely Dan’s output in the 70s and 80s.
The description is a little unfair as Donald Fagan and Walter Becker gained a reputation for being notorious studio perfectionists transforming the band from being a live act in the mid-seventies to sophisticated Jazz-Rock album specialists that went through a slew of session musicians in the process.
So, it is a brave group with immense confidence in their abilities to recreate their album songs in a live setting. Well, not only do they manage to nail the hits, but they do it again and again in delivering a mammoth set list of twenty-six songs of Steely Dan's back-catalogue.
And with such a wealth of material, each element of the band got to showcase their individual contribution: the brass section featuring Jack Thrush on Tenor saxophone and Tristan Gaudion on trumpet, made their warm presence felt on 'Deacon Blues'; coolness personified, David McLeod’s bass lines were tight and funky with a driving rhythm on 'Green Earrings', Joe Browne's sensational alto sax solo on 'Do it Again' and Roger Evans’ Rhodes piano as jaunty as you like on 'Fire in the Hole'.
But the pinnacle of this performance is the interplay between the sanguine vocals of founder member Mark Roadknight and the fluidity of featured guitarist Darren Spicer who managed to impart a more frazzled impression on 'Black Friday'. Spicer’s expertly executes the wah-wah tones of 'Haitian Divorce' as the straggly-haired and bespectacled Roadknight imparts a greater urgency in his delivery. The marathon tempo is sustained by Mark Claydon’s myriad of drumming styles with the soulful (and singular) backing vocal of Lauren Goddard.
The audience mouthing the words to even the more obscure numbers was certainly impressive, demonstrating that local midweek gigs do not get grander or better than this, the band perfectly reeling back the years on this old school night.
Ivan De Mello