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MUSIC: Dukes have one cool jukebox

There’s range and there’s range. When it came to the playlist, no old guys are going to come up with a hipper mix tape for you than Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, collectively performing as the Dukes of September Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel. They covered everything from Ray Charles’s “I’ve Got News for You” to The Band’s country-fried “Rag Mama Rag.”

Near the end, when Fagen introduced the very surprising cover of Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air,” he said, “Bet you haven’t heard this one in a while!” The same could be said for about half the show.

But when it comes to vocal range? Eehhh … It was the last night of the tour, and even in their 30s, Fagen and McDonald never roamed the octaves beyond that one zone where their voices best nestle. The first half hour seemed a bit touch an go, with vocals mixed down low amid the crackerjack horn section and the two female backup singers, Catherine Russell and Carolyn Leonhart sounding so good they inadvertently made the lads seem even more strained.

After a while though, the sound guys boosted the levels and the gents seemed to hit their stride. It was cool that none of them left the stage when the others were singing, manning keyboards and guitar to augment the seven backing players. Scaggs proved the most valuable utility man. You would expect him to do Teddy Pendergrass’s “Love TKO” as adeptly as his own Disco Stu anthem “Lowdown.” But he stepped out of his svelte typecasting to take the lead on Mink DeVille’s “Cadillac Walk,” the O’Jays’ “Love Train” and even the Beach Boys’ “Help Me Rhonda.”

But the crowd was there to hear the hits — the three singers’ own hits. And that’s where this suddenly seemed like such a great idea, teaming three voices of one era who were so simpatico. Fagen’s “Green Flower Street” blended so well with Scaggs’ “Miss Son” and McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” that it was like they all used to be in the same group back in the day, and this was their reunion.

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