Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs reel in the years on PBS
The full name of the sporadic touring trio made up of Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs is the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue, because their original intent was to perform the vintage R&B songs that influenced them as young men.
Maybe the name of the group got shortened for this installment of Great Performances (9:30 p.m. Thursday on WHYY TV12) because the group's 2012 concert at Manhattan's august Lincoln Center is essentially a greatest-hits showcase. Which is still a pretty sweet deal.
McDonald handles songs from his time with the Doobie Brothers ("What a Fool Believes") and his solo career ("I Keep Forgettin' "). He's lost a few notes off his top end, but he has crafty ways of disguising that and he still has that inimitably dusky tone.
Fagen dominates the set list with an abundance of Steely Dan material ("Kid Charlemagne," "Peg," "Hey Nineteen," and others), which is only fair because he started the Dukes as his side project.
But he's a method singer with an awkward performance style. He addresses the mike like someone with a severe overbite eating barbecue.
The most economical singer of the bunch, Scaggs, is in the best voice on this night as he glides through hits from his monster 1976 album, Silk Degrees. When you hear songs such as "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" now, you realize that one of the reasons that album did so well is that it was, from beginning to end, an unacknowledged homage to the Sound of Philadelphia.
Boz displays some pretty sharp guitar chops as well. But he can't hold a pick next to Jon Herington, the guitarist who has been playing the last few years for Steely Dan and is this concert's musical sparkplug.
One of the highlights comes when Herington reignites Elliott Randall's legendary solo from Steely Dan's earliest hit, "Reelin' In the Years." He also does a fair Ernie Isley imitation on "Who's That Lady?" in the show's opener.
A somewhat expanded version of this same concert will be released on Blu-ray/DVD next week. Maybe that's where all the old R&B is hiding. Come back, Fats Domino.
Great Performances: "Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs: The Dukes of September"
9:30 p.m. Thursday on WHYY TV12