BANGOR, Maine — It felt like fall Friday night, which felt appropriate for the Steely Dan concert that happened at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor that night. Steely Dan’s music is full of references to the passage of time, to change, and to the memory of school — in particular Bard College, often very specifically, the New York college where pianist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker met in the late 1960s.
In a show that started the first of a three-day stretch of concerts on the Waterfront, Steely Dan played a mixture of new and old, hits and back catalog gems, radio staples and lesser-known songs. They started the night with “Black Cow,” off their beloved 1977 album “Aja,” and kept their signature mix of jazz, funk, rock and R&B going all night.
“I’ve listened to them for years and years,” said Kevin O’Dell of Portland, who was at the concert with his wife, Anne. “I saw them once back about ten years ago, and they were great live, so this is definitely a concert we’ve been looking forward to. We bought tickets months ago. They’re a fantastic live band.”
Fagen and Becker and their excellent 11-piece band peppered songs from their 2003 album “Everything Must Go,” and 1973’s “Countdown to Ecstasy,” in with a litany of hits, like “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Josie, “Kid Charlemagne” and many others.
This incarnation of the Steely Dan live band featured a collection of seasoned musicians, all at the top of their game. In particular, guitarist Jon Herington and drummer Keith Carlock often took center stage, with searing solos that went toe-to-toe with Fagan and Becker’s complex, jazz-inflected compositions. The three-piece backup vocal team were also particularly engaging.
Known for their dark, satirical lyrics, Becker several times launched into a funny, sarcastic, partially off-the-cuff monologue, going part way into a story about the one other time he’d been in Maine — a fishing trip on Vinalhaven. He admitted from the stage, however, that he’d never been to Bangor.
The Steely Dan concert was the first of three concerts set for the Bangor Waterfront this weekend; two country concerts are set for the remainder of the weekend, with Lady Antebellum on Saturday and Jason Aldean on Sunday, both of whom have appeared at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion before. This three-day run caps off the 2014 Waterfront Concert season — concert fans can expect the first round of announcements for the 2015 season sometime in December or January.