A desire "to do something that would be different and give fans the chance to shape the shows" is behind the special shows Steely Dan is doing as part of its just-started Rent Party '09 U.S. tour.
"In the current climate of financial desperation, we figured there's no reason why people who are going out and buying tickets to concerts shouldn't get a little extra," the group's Walter Becker tells Billboard.com. "We've been sort of thinking about this and taking about this for some years and never got around to doing it. And this seemed like a good time to do it."
The highlights of the 28-date tour come during multi-night stands in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where Steely Dan will play select albums -- "The Royal Scam," "Aja" and "Gaucho" -- in their entirety on successive nights and then finish with a special Internet Request Night of songs chosen by fans. The irony, of course, is that the three albums were recorded after Steely Dan decided to forego playing live in the mid-'70s and therefore never toured to promote them, but Becker says he and partner Donald Fagen and the current incarnation of their band have not had trouble figuring out how to recreate them live.
"Everything sounds really good," Becker says. "For the most part we're sticking with the arrangements we used on the album, so we haven't substantially re-arranged the tunes for the album nights. With the particular band that we have, it's not challenging in any way...It sort of recreates the experience of sort of listening to the album. It'll be interesting to see how that works out in a concert format.
Becker and Fagen did, however, draw up a list of songs to limit choices for the Internet Request Nights. "As a practical matter...in preparing the band for the tour, we had to sort of limit the tunes we'd prepare or else it would just be too much, sort of overwhelming," Becker explains.
Steely Dan has no plans to record or film these shows -- "It's be there or be square," Becker says -- and there are currently no plans to record a successor to 2003's "Everything Must Go." "We don't have anything in the pipeline right now," he notes. "The question (about a new album) may be asked, but it hasn't been answered."
Becker, meanwhile, hopes to make a few more dub remixes of songs from his 2008 solo album "Circus Money" and also has "a couple of tracks left over from that session that I'll finish and put on line or propagate in some way."