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Steely Dan @ Sony Studios

Steely Dan Tapes Two For TV In New York City
Reports and Pictures
PBS - In The Spotlight: On January 28th and 29th, 2000, PBS and filmmaker Earle Sebastian taped an "In The Spotlight" Special at the Sony Studios in New York City. The resulting film features both performance and documentary/interview footage, and aired on most PBS affiliates during March [Purchase info for the Home VHS and DVD versions is here]

VH-1 - Storytellers: On February 1, VH-1 taped a "Storytellers" featuring Steely Dan, also at Sony Studios in New York. It is scheduled to air on April 24th.

Walter and Donald were joined onstage by Jon Herington (guitar); Cornelius Bumpus (sax); Chris Potter (sax); Michael Leonhart (trumpet); Jim Pugh (trombone); Ricky Lawson (drums); Tom Barney (bass); Ted Baker (keyboards); Victoria Cave (BG vocals); Carolyn Leonhart (BG vocals), and Cynthia Calhoun (BG vocals). [For more on these players, see our band bio page]

Check out some pictures and a few fan reports, below [Click on each picture below to bring up a larger version in a new window].

All Excess
Viewing Note: These are digital photos taken and upload in low-resolution format. For best fidelity, set your monitor to a moderate resolution and as many colors as possible ("millions of" colors works best: "thousands of colors" is marginal, but OK for most shots: "256 colors" is trippin' time).

Ted Baker, Ricky Lawson, Tom Barney being interviewed by PBS crew

DaKine Dave Russell

Donald Fagen

Jon Herington and Walter Becker
Contest Winner Thomas Shea writes:
I can't say how happy I was to get the opportunity to see Steely Dan live, especially given the venue. I flew in from Los Angeles just to take in the show. There was certainly an attendant amount of bullshit involved (being moved from seat to seat; more than one industry type suggesting that I couldn't sit where I was told to sit; that there were no bad seats, but no word on why I had to move if there weren't any bad seats); but the show was more than worth all of the inconveniences. The Dan's sound is as tight as ever. The news songs were all excellent, and the fact that over a third of the set was dedicated to new stuff shows me that Steely Dan isn't a nostalgia act. They tweaked a few of the old tunes, but I wouldn't have minded seeing more adventurous forays beyond what has become such a tightly structured sound.

Donald's voice seemed weak at moments; strong at others; it seemed like he wasn't always hitting the mike right at moments, at other moments, the audio level of the mike seemed too low. His crotchety onstage demeanor is hilarious; Walter Becker's guitar is strong as always. Their music is as compelling to me now as it ever has been. The happiest surprise of 2000 (of course, in addition to winning the taping passes) is a new Steely Dan album; and one of such high quality... I can't wait for the tour!

By the way, if it can be avoided, don't try sleeping in a terminal at JFK. That's one of my New York lessons.

- Thomas Shea (

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen

Cornelius Bumpus, Chris Potter, Michael Leonhart, Jim Pugh

Victoria Cave, Carolyn Leonhart, Cynthia Calhoun

Jon Herington

Kind Of Blew: Cornelius Bumpus, Chris Potter, Michael Leonhart

Ricky Lawson
Contest Winner Gabe Sasso writes:
The excitement started when I checked my e-mail on January 20th. Amongst the ads, solicitations, and other assorted refuse and spam were some legitimate messages. One of them informed me that I'd won 2 tickets to see Steely Dan tape their PBS special on January 29, 2000. To say I was thrilled would be putting it mildly.

My first step was to confirm acceptance of the tickets by return e-mail. After that I called my friend Dave to see if he'd come along as my guest. A silly question really since I knew that barring actually being bedridden any self-respecting Dan fan would kill to be at the taping. Of course he accepted.

The excitement of the event seemed to build as the day got closer. It was only just over a week but it seemed much longer. Finally when we were ushered out of the line by [website assistant] D. and into Sony Studios the time had come. We had great seats dead center and about 5 rows back from the stage thanks to D. providing VIP passes. Truthfully the studio which I would guess seats less than 300 people doesn't look like it has a bad seat. Intimacy was definitely at a high.

The time from seating to the actual show passed and the band was brought on. Last onstage of course were Walter and Donald. They thanked everyone for coming and Donald commented that everything about the night would seem like a show but in fact it was not. Actually he said it was just television.

Then the band launched into "Green Earrings." It was a terrific opener and the crowd, which was clearly primed and ready, was into it from note one. The band's intensity never seemed to ebb as they moved seamlessly from old favorites to brand new songs from the upcoming album. My impression was that the new tracks retain the classic Dan sound while adding a new flavor to the mix here or there. Of the new tunes played at the taping my favorite at this point is "Gaslighting Abbie." Of course this is subject to change once I've had the opportunity to listen to all of "Two Against Nature" a few dozen times.

Throughout the night the band took a couple of breaks. Donald mentioned that this was due to the TV aspect of things. One of the breaks was due to a lighting issue that needed correcting. Each time they came back on stage the crowd was back into it instantly. Breaks like that which one would think might stifle the crowd's momentum did anything but.

I must mention the band Donald and Walter have surrounded themselves with. Comprised of both veterans of the Steely Dan tours of the 90's and newcomers to Dan this group can flat out play. The horn section made up this time of 2 sax players, one trumpet and for the first time a trombone was particularly fantastic. The trio of backup singers also shone particularly on tunes like "Babylon Sisters" where their vocals were brought to the forefront. These are just two examples. At points throughout the evening every member of the band had his or her exceptional moments. Donald and Walter for their part looked like they were having a blast. And well they should, everyone else was too.

All told it was a fantastic evening of great music in an intimate setting. And of course with a new album due and a tour on the horizon 2000 promises to be a new and exciting chapter in the world of Steely Dan. I'm already looking forward to the special when it airs March 1st on PBS.

- Gabe Sasso

Gabe Sasso and David Vermeire

Ricky Lawson and Tom Barney

Jon Herington, Walter Becker, Ricky Lawson at sound check

Ted Baker

Cornelius Bumpus and Chris Potter

Walter Becker

Cornelius Bumpus, Chris Potter, Walter Becker, Michael Leonhart, Jim Pugh, Donald Fagen, Ubiquitous Cameraman, Ricky Lawson

Victoria Cave, Carolyn Leonhart, Cynthia Calhoun
Contest Winner Russell Greenberg writes:
What a night!!! Thank you so much for one of the more special evenings. The band sounded great and both Donald and Walter were in top form. The new stuff was excellent as well as all the classics. The arrangement on "Do It Again" brought tears to my eyes .......Mind boggling stuff!!!! Thanks to all the staff at the theatre who where helpful throughout.

- Russell Greenberg

Webfriends Kent Sheldon, Pat Beemer, Mary 'Moonflower' Garrett, Jim "Hoops!" McKay, Joe Murtha, Carole Murtha

Thanks again to the contest winners -- some of whom traveled a great distance at their own expense to make it to the shows -- and apologies once more to those we couldn't find in the midst of all the madness to welcome personally and take your pictures. We hope everybody had a great time.

All photos ©2000

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