What to Do Tonight (And Tomorrow Night): Steely Dan

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Fans of bent classic rock with a jazz twist should enjoy the still durable Steely Dan when the ’70s masters perform at E.J. Thomas Hall (198 Hill St., Akron, 330.972.7570, ticketmaster.com) at 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The first show will feature Aja, their 1977 hit album; the second includes The Royal Scam, 1976’s predecessor. The dates are part of the Rent Party ’09 tour, where the band — led by guitarist Walter Becker and the shaded Donald Fagen on keyboards — will also perform other gems from its extensive repertoire. Reviews of recent shows (where the deadpan duo fronted an 11-piece group) suggest Steely Dan might resurrect favorites like “Hey Nineteen,” “Do It Again” and “Kid Charlemagne” — talismans of a decade in which rock ‘n’ roll became big business and politics went dirty. A minor-key band of major themes and worldly, cynical approach, Steely Dan carved its profile in the ’70s, the era of REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Peter Frampton. Their cutting-edge harmonies, jazz grounding and sharp takes on American consumer culture made them an unlikely candidate for commercial success. But their way with melody, easy swing and use of the best musicians of the day — including guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, vocalist Michael McDonald and saxophonist Wayne Shorter — made them a welcome anomaly whose best work is perpetually modern. Local factoid: Steely Dan’s first gig was in 1972, opening for the James Gang at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. Tickets: $61-$148. — Carlo Wolff

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