“Great Woods” is Dead and Gone–My Review of a Steely Dan Show

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One of the first people I can ever remember interviewing as a journalist was Woodstock promoter Artie Kornfeld.

He was cool. I liked him.

But then again, I wasn’t jaded back then. It was the summer of 2005. I was young. The future was still bright.

Maybe if we met today, I’d hate him. But I digress.

In any event, one of the things I remember was him warning me that Steely Dan was a horrible live show.

A Steely Disappointment 

I never forgot that. Steely Dan has always been one of my favorite bands. Yet I had heard the same thing elsewhere.

In matters like these, it’s best for one to judge for themself. Yet for some reason or other, I never had a chance to see them–until last Saturday.

Well, Kornfeld (and others) were right. Steely Dan was disappointing live. Lead singer Donald Fagan didn’t sound loud enough. He leaned on his backup singers. Nobody paid to hear them.

(Sorry that the clip is upside down, for some reason.)

The guitarist cheapened out on some of his solos. The band didn’t play all of their hits either. I was disappointed.

Fortunately, the band I wasn’t as interested in seeing, opening act The Doobie Brothers, were amazing. They played all their hits, and sounded great doing it. They saved the evening.

But the most impressive thing about the evening was the experience of going. Going to a concert, especially at the Xfinity Comcast Center, is so much different than it was 20 years ago.

An Inconvenient Experience

One thing hasn’t changed. It’s still a royal pain in the ass to get out of the parking lot after the show. That aspect has always sucked.

This is the line to get into the show. It reminds me of being at an airport.

But now, it takes about 20 minutes to get into the show to begin with. Concert goers must pass through security that almost rivals entering an airport terminal. How fun!

The dogs who were supposed to be helping with security were very lazy.

Like most people, I like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a concert. I’m also known to dig into a tub of popcorn or to woof down a hot dog. But I don’t like to feel like I need a bank loan to do it.

Well, at this concert, I would have needed to. Would you like a “premium” can of beer? That’s $15! Someone wants a cheeseburger? Well, that’s $9.50. 

Your Wallet Will Be Lighter

What’s more, sometimes a bottle of water costs you $7. Others, it’s just $5. What gives here?

Needless to say, I didn’t bother eating or drinking anything. I was there for about 3 hours.

Can you believe that people are willing to pay these sorts of prices to drink a beer or eat a sausage? I can’t.

And then there’s the lines to get into the bathroom. I can’t exaggerate how ridiculous the wait was. The picture is worth 1 million words.

How much would you enjoy waiting in this line to get into the men’s bathroom? This is no joke! 

Not Cheap

Then there was the price of the tickets, which were about $70 apiece on the secondary market–the only way I could obtain them. Initially, I was seated so far away that I would’ve needed binoculars to see the show. I’d need to strain to hear it.

Where I was originally seated.

But even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. And every dog has his day in the sun, or something. Which is to say I had some good luck. A supervisor at the concert was moving random people to a closer section. I was allowed to move (after some begging on my part). So that was cool.

Here’s my seat post hookup by Xfinity Center staff. (That’s a photo of Jimmy Caputo, a RI Relevant contributor and tremendous guitarist in his own right.)

Also nice was the weather. It wasn’t overly hot once the sun set. In the end, it’s cool to hear music one likes on a nice night in the summer. There were worst places to be.

But I can’t help but thinking of Kornfeld and how concerts were so much cooler in his day. Heck, they were even so much cooler 20 years ago.

Russell Moore
Russell J. Moore is the publisher and founder of rirelevant.com. He’s been writing about Rhode Island since 2005. You should definitely follow him on twitter @russmoore713. If you want to send him email, you can send it to russmoore713@gmail.com
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7 COMMENTS

  1. I love concerts. was never big on Steely Dan but a big yes to the Doobie Bros. I haven’t been to X-finity in a few years – I want a seat so was always willing to pay. Last time I went to see Aerosmith (I never miss their concerts) but so very disappointed in the crowd. There were little kids running all over the place while the parents, slugging down their beers, didn’t pay attention or control them (I’d like to know how they can afford to bring their kids !). It was a beautiful night but under the cover, the place smelled like a beer hall. How can an outdoor concert smell like that ?? I’ve never gone back – I’m not paying big bucks to watch kids running wild. As much as I love Aerosmith (and they were great), I gave up and left, never to return. Do parents have any control over their kids anymore? It would have been cheaper for them to hire a babysitter so the rest of us could enjoy the music.

    • Hi Lesley!

      I also like Aerosmith, especially their older stuff (basically, everything up to and including “Permanent Vacation”). That’s a good point about shows as well–I’m not sure why parents feel the need to bring children. The smell of beer is annoying, and also the smell of marijuana is also a big annoyance to me as well. I do like outdoor venues. I seem to have had better luck at concerts at the Bank of America Pavillion in Boston, despite the longer commute. There are a bunch of great restaurants right outside of it.

  2. I attend about 3-4 concerts Xfinity each year. We go early and tailgate with food & drinks with other fun concert goers before the start time. This eliminates having to pay high vendor costs inside the facility. (which most concert/event facilities have high prices) At the above reviewed concert, the entry lines were significantly longer than usual for this event. Not sure why everyone decided to line up at the same time. First time I’ve seen than happen. Security checks & screenings (same as attending indoor Dunkin Donuts events) have always been efficient & quick. The information (even size of ladies purse allowed, unopened bottle water can be brought in) is on their website and emails with tickets advise restrictions, procedures etc. so you know in advance. Sign up at designated driver booth and you receive FREE soda drinks at concessions.Ticket costs can be prohibitive at any concert event but there are ways to purchase lower cost tickets, then be offered upgrades through Live Nation. The traffic has been an issue since the facility was built (location and one road access). Again, if you know this in advance, pack refreshments, relax after reliving concert, and when the initial traffic subsides you can drive right out. I live in southern RI and get home very very late but it’s worth it because my concert experience at Xfinity is always a good time with friends & people we meet. As far as, Steely Dan, I can only say the loss of Walter Becker last year may have affected current live performances. I cant tell you comparatively speaking, since it was my first time seeing them live as well. It’s important to keep in mind the music of Dan Fagen has always been jazz influenced instrumentally, his vocal performance not the primary focus of his musical talent. Overall, the concert was not a disappointment for me as a huge lifelong fan. Xfinity is a great outdoor concert facility. I have been going since facility opening in 1986, and I cant wait every Jan/Feb for the upcoming summer season schedule, purchasing tickets, and then our enthusiasm builds for just another summer of fun & music outdoors at Xfinity!! I’m sorry the reviewer’s lack of Xfinity experience seems to have jaded his opinion and subsequently overall enjoyment. Come with us next time, we’ll surely change your mind.

    • Patricia, thank you for such a well-written and well thought out comment (and for reading my review/site). You certainly do seem like a veteran concert goer and you know all the tricks (which kids these days call “hacks”)! I’m glad you had fun. I’m also not surprised since you have such a positive attitude. I may have to take you up on your offer!

      • We are a 60+ age group, you may have trouble keeping up with us! We do go to the bathroom frequently, so we know all the best spots with little or no lines too…… 🙂 Next concert is Chicago/REO Speedwagon. Message me if you get tickets to the show. We’ll ensure your next review & experience at Xfinity is a positive one.

          • Hey Russ, just read your review. It seems your experience sort of puts things in perspective at Xfinity. One can deal with the traffic, when the parking is free at Xfinity. They allow you to arrive starting at 4pm and have no problem with folks setting up coolers, grills & tents for tailgating. Xfinity doesn’t have an issue that people plan to eat and drink before & after the show, eliminating the need to buy high priced concession foods inside. I don’t know, but I doubt the parking areas in Boston allow such activity. Also, does Blue Hills have a “designated driver” sign up desk like Xfinity, so you can get Free water and soda drinks inside the facility? BTW Xfinity has added more security check-in lines so the wait is no longer than 5 minutes. I have to say the Chicago show wasn’t what ~some~ people expected to hear, so that got me into conflict with another reviewer over the music but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Just gotta go and enjoy the live performances and let the rest go, right? I think my Xfinity summer is over, so it’s on to next year!!!

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