By Sarah Rodman
BOSTON — There are very few summer concerts one can go to and find the lead guitarist raunchily riffing on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
But then there are very few, if any, bands like Steely Dan.
Tuesday night the revered fusion duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen brought their arch humor and a typically superb 10-piece band to the Bank of America Pavilion for the first of two shows.
In the midst of the generation gap lament “Hey Nineteen,” Becker began opining about Maslow, adding Milt Jackson records, funnel cake, and a few things we can’t print to the famed psychologist’s pyramid of basic human requirements. But the needs of the close-to-capacity crowd were met ably as the professorial pair went, as Fagen put it, “into the deep ’70s” for a 110-minute set that ranged from breezy to virtuosic.
Although lead singer-keyboardist Fagen’s trademark sly whine was spotty on occasion, it was never ruinously so as he eased through crowd — pleasers such as “Peg,” “Josie,” “FM,” and “Bad Sneakers.”
He was spelled by Becker, who took the lead on the slinky, lounge-reggae gem “Haitian Divorce,” and back up singers Carolyn Leonhart and Cindy Mizelle , who smoothly crooned the debut album lament “Dirty Work.”
As usual, Becker’s spider-vein leads were spot on all night, and Fagen generously ceded the spotlight to the other players. Drummer Keith Carlock and tenor sax man Walt Weiskopf shone especially bright on the intricate percussion/horn pas de deux sections of “Aja,” and guitarist Jon Herington added woozy charm to “Haitian Divorce.”
Although the performance felt a little low energy and almost too perfect in places, that meshed well with the overall lazy summer sensibility of the evening. The vibe perked up by night’s end with spirited runs through “Kid Charlemagne” and the joyous jitterbug of “Bodhisattva.”
The Sam Yahel Organ Trio warmed up those not enjoying the night air and adult beverages on the concourse with a quiet, tasteful set of instrumentals.