Live At Lincoln Center – The Dukes Of September, (2014)

by | Nov 21, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Live At Lincoln Center – The Dukes Of September, (2014)

Cast: Donald Fagen – keyboards, vocals; Michael McDonald – keyboards, vocals; Boz Scaggs – guitars, vocals; with Jon Herington  – guitar; Michael Leonhart – trumpet; Walt Weiskopf – tenor saxophone, flute; Jay Collins – baritone sax, flute; Jim Beard – piano; Freddie Washington – bass; Shannon Forrest – drums; Monet Owens & Carolyn Leonhart – background vocals
Studio: 429 Records
Director: David Horn
Video: 16×9 Color 
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS-MA 5.1, PCM 2.0
Length: 91 minutes
TrackList: People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul; Who’s That Lady; Sweet Soul Music; I Keep Forgettin’; Kid Charlemagne; The Same Thing; Miss Sun; You Never Can Tell; What A Fool Believes; Hey Nineteen; Love T.K.O; Peg; Lowdown; Takin’ It To The Streets; Reelin’ In The Years; Lido Shuffle; Pretzel Logic; Them Changes   
Ratings:    Video: ****    Audio ***

Three veteran rock ‘n’ soul veterans took the stage for a nostalgic evening of music. Steely Dan founder Donald Fagen (the bandleader or organizer) was joined by Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) and Boz Scaggs for a performance at Lincoln Center (November 2012) that included soul covers and original hits. The resulting performance (Live At Lincoln Center  – The Dukes Of September )was captured on video and broadcast on PBS.

After a band fanfare opening, the headliners walked onstage and performed the Isley Brothers hit, “Who’s That Lady”. Scaggs (with his vocal fluidity) took the opening verse as the accomplished band (including a horn/reed section, bass, guitar, drums, keyboards and backup singers) eased into the jam. Fagen, with his quirky delivery, followed on the second verse. The purpose of the show was to acknowledge the influence of soul music on rock. On “Sweet Soul Music”, they did just that, with McDonald handling lead (Scaggs on second). Despite self-references in the lyrics the song was delivered with grit and style. The group alternated between individual hits like “Kid Charlemagne” (with the idiosyncratic chord progressions), “What A Fool Believes” and the groove-infused “Lowdown”.

It appeared that the ensemble was at its peak for Scaggs’ unique hybrid of blues and rock. Summoning up the mojo from “Loan Me A Dime”, he shines on a mid-set trio of songs, starting with a gritty blues take on “The Same Thing”. “Miss Sun” is a highlight reel of relaxed hooks punctuated by a call and response with Monet Owens. Michael McDonald switches to accordion on the Chuck Berry classic, “You Never Can Tell”. But the audience was poised for the radio-friendly material, and they were not disappointed. Fagen is an accomplished songwriter and the precise studio arrangements are captured on “Peg”, “Hey Nineteen” and “Reeling In The Years” (with some impeccable blended backup vocals by McDonald). The encore is crowd-pleasing with “Lido” setting the stage.

There is not a lot of departure from studio arrangements on many of the songs. One of the exceptions is McDonalds’ funky gospel piano intro to “Takin’ It To The Streets”. But “Pretzel Logic” is imbued with soulful intensity. Fagen and Scaggs handle the verses and McDonald takes charge of the bridge. The finale is an all-out soul assault on Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes”. The stars exit the stage to more band fanfare after ninety minutes.

The video quality of this DVD is excellent, with pristine clarity and minimal gimmickry. The stereo mix is good, but muddled at times. Some vocals are drowned out by the instrumentation. The surround sound is better, but lacks full range vibrancy. Still, Live At Lincoln CenterThe Dukes Of September is a bona fide rock ‘n’ soul celebration!

–Robbie Gerson

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