Nearly Dan, Jazz Cafe, London, 6th August 2006
Progressive Rock fans argue incessantly. They argue about the very definition of the name of their genre, they argue about who should and shouldn't be included within it, they argue about the merits of archaic instrumentation versus modern studio techno-trickery. They're a very argumentative lot! It's quite rare to find a band inside or out of the genre that doesn't divide a roomful of diehard Prog fans; one such band is Steely Dan, universally loved.
Steely Dan hit paydirt in the 70s with their brand of laid back, jazzy soft rock. Clever enough to appeal to Prog fans and yet melodious enough to reach the general record-buying public; they have a huge and devoted fan base. One that is overjoyed to find them out on the road again this year. Unfortunately, they seem not to be making the journey over to these shores.......just yet. (Well, we can live in hope.)
Another thing that prog fans argue about is Tribute bands. Strange in a genre that supports the tribute scene so well, but hey, we do like to bicker so anything is game. Given that British fans won't get to see Messrs Becker and Fagan trot out the hits in enormodomes this year, we must make do with the next best thing, that thing is Nearly Dan.
Formed a decade ago, this 10 strong band of accomplished musicians have been attempting to plug the UK Dan gap ever since. Eschewing the look-alike side of the tribute circuit, Nearly Dan concentrate on the music, removing some of the cheese factor from this tribute performance. As with all good musicians, the music is all and their love for this particular band stands them in good stead when recreating their finest moments.
The Jazz Cafe in Camden is sultry on a Summer's eve. Sultry suits Dan music perfectly and makes you forget you're in Indie-Ville, London. Everybody here has run the gauntlet of strange haircuts and even stranger clothing outside on the streets, waiting to see the masters, or at least their apprentices, bring to life the soundtrack of their lives. Full enough that avoiding people's toes on the way through is almost impossible, beer spillages only serve to enhance the humid atmosphere.
The stage at the Jazz Cafe is not the largest but the 10 piece band manage to cram on there adequately with the horn section of trumpeter and two saxophonists over to the left, the bassist and drummer tucked away behind a pillar, the two statuesque - and phenomenally cool throughout - backing singers over to the right and everybody else squeezed in the middle.
Reportedly, Nearly Dan don't bother rehearsing unless they are breaking in new personnel or material so their ability to recreate the original songs is pleasing. Although not purists in The Musical Box mode, their versions are accurate enough not to bother too many nitpickers. Many fraught hours in bedrooms and garages must have been endured for each member to learn their part and you know it's all done for the love of the music. No one member taking the spotlight unless the song demands it.
With a canon such as the Dan's, picking a set list is an embarrassment of riches. Nearly Dan spread their pearls over two hour long sets, mixing and matching from all eras and including some solo Donald Fagen tracks. Even the latest, Morph The Cat, is represented here. One area in which Nearly Dan can excel is in playing those songs that the real Dan choose no longer to share live, such as the sublime Doctor Wu which proves to be a highlight of the first set.
While the whole performance is of a highly creditable standard this first act certainly ups the ante as it passes. The earlier half exuding effortless cool despite the intense heat in the venue - Cool is the watchword of the evening, the sounds so easily laid before us all night long. Aja allows drummer Brian Hargreaves to cut loose a bit towards the end of the song beautifully setting up the last part of this set, Ricky Don't Lose That Number and a stomping Reeling In The Years.
10 minutes to grab a beer or some much needed fresh air and we're drawn back to the stage with the languorous strains of The Boston Rag. From hereon in we're into greatest hits and fan favourites territory. Parkers Band finally getting some of the more recalcitrant audience members shimmying. The hits just keep on coming, FM into Hey 19 with excellent trumpet work from Paul Bennett and then Kid Charlemagne where we ascertain that there is indeed 'Gas in the car!'
The band could frankly play all night, I'm sure they're perfectly capable of it, but all good things must come to an end and the show finishes with a jamming Bodhisattva. Returning for an encore of My Old School which was just crying out for some cowbell, we must reluctantly consider returning to the real world again. One where car alarms and sirens punctuate the atmosphere of an earlier more laid back era.
Singling out for praise any member of the band in particular serves to diminish every other member's contribution, so smoothly do they gel together and trade musical motifs. It seems as if they could do this in their sleep which I'm sure is emphatically not the case. However, after a long while - for me - of live prog noodlings, it was a real joy and a treat to experience a full on funky horn (section)....and I don't say that too often!
Nearly Dan will be playing further dates around the country so if you feel like washing away some of the overblown elements of progness or indeed find out why not all tribute bands are a bad idea you could do a lot worse than to check them out. No arguments.
Apologies for the poor quality of the photos but an unforeseen scheduling gaff meant I was without a decent camera on this occasion.
Click on the 'arrows' to move the thumbnail selection along and click on a thumbnail to se the full size photo below
Do It Again
Night By Night
Home At Last
What I Do
Ricki Don't Lose That Number
Reeling In The Years
The Boston Rag
Time Out Of Mind
My Old School
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