Dublin Blues Fest kicks off – with no blues

The Blues Fest in Dublin is an unashamed nostalgia trip to warm up the coldest of winter hearts — but one tune by headliners Steely Dan will strike a particular chord with everyone in the audience, and the vast majority of the adult population in Ireland.

The band’s 1972 song Reeling In the years could well be their biggest hit, but it’s also the theme tune of RTE’s archive show of the same name, that’s seemingly on a perpetual 7pm loop feeding our history back to us in pop culture chunks.

The ‘festival’ tag in Blues Festival is a bit of a stretch, and it’s really just four headline shows — including two by Steely Dan, tomorrow and Monday.

You could argue that they’re also bending the rules with the ‘Blues’ tag as Nile Rodgers and Chic are playing under the Blues Fest banner tonight — a celebration of pop, soul and disco with next to no blues. And Steely Dan are a few degrees of celebration away from the blues — with Sunday headliners Hall and Oates even further away.

Still, without nitpicking, it’s a blockbuster stretch at the 3Arena, opening with Steely Dan tomorrow. Steely Dan fans were dealt a blow in September when founding member and constant guitarist Walter Becker died, leaving fellow veteran Donald Fagen as the only original member of the band, on keyboards and vocals.

“I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band,” he said of his friend, which means drafting in another guitar player to fill some very big shoes, as well as their long-running session band with serious chops.

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Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen (left) and Walter Becker

Support tomorrow and Monday comes from the Doobie Brothers — who are in fairness the most bluesy act of the whole series, playing good-time blue-eyed soul and intricate blues-rock that won’t offend anyone.

And if the Doobie Brothers seem a little polished, Daryl Hall and John Oates are positively gleaming — armed with some of the shiniest pop-rock of the 70s and 80s as their biggest hits. As well as the unending John Oates moustache memes and cheeseball airbrushed promo shots from their early days, the pair are behind feathered-hair belters like Maneater, Private Eyes, I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) and Out of Touch.

You might need an injection of soft-rock karaoke after the smouldering moodiness of Hall and Oates’ support act Chris Isaak. The veteran’s twangy classics like Wicked Game and Blue Hotel would maybe go down better at the seated National Concert Hall rather than an arena full of screaming heads on the bank holiday session — but it’s still a rare chance to catch one of the most singular voices of the 90s.

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