DETROIT -- Music "supergroups" tend to fail because the combined talents wind up not being greater than the sum of its parts -- and are usually less.
Not so the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue.
The teaming of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers alumnus Michael McDonald was a more than one plus one plus one equals three proposition Wednesday night (Sept. 8) at the Fox Theatre. Delivering just over two hours of their own hits plus some choice -- and surprising -- covers, the Dukes presented an unequivocally killer of a show whose disappointingly sparse attendance made it the concert that got away for the summer season.
Those covers, of course, were the focus of the night as the three men -- who also toured together in 1992 as the New York Rock & Soul Revue -- touched on their influences and personal favorites, often to surprising effect. After all, it wasn't necessarily a surprise that Scaggs could charge through Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" or that McDonald could slay Ray Charles' "I've Got News For You." But the Grateful Dead's disco hit "Shakedown Street" sung by Fagen? Gregg Allman's "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" by McDonald and backup singer Catherine Russell? Mink DeVille's "Cadillac Walk?" Sam Moore's "Heighty Hi?" This was choice stuff, obscure and hip and rendered commandingly by the trio and its seven-piece band, comprised mostly of Steely Dan adjuncts.
Scaggs also turned in a killer rendition of Teddy Pendergrass' "Love TKO," while each of the Dukes took turns singing a song by The Band -- "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" (Fagen), "Rag Mama Rag" (Scaggs) and "The Shape I'm In" (McDonald).
The hits, meanwhile, were...the hits. Fagen dug a little deep into the Steely Dan catalog for "Green Flower Street" but also turned out "Reelin' in the Years" and "Peg," as well as his own "I.G.Y." McDonald's own "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" joined Doobie Brothers favorites "What a Fool Believes" and "Takin' It to the Streets," and Scaggs' "Lowdown" almost brought the sedate crowd to its feet. Almost.
Detroit got its due via backup singer Carolyn Escoffery's emotive take on Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady," while the O'Jays' "Love Train" closed the main set and Buddy Miles' powerhouse "Them Changes," sung by McDonald, capped the encores. It was the kind of special show that won't be repeated very often, so those who made it could consider themselves fortunate.