Little Steven and his band, The Disciples of Soul are currently performing together in the UK for the first time in 25 years.
Earlier this year Miami Steve released his first solo album since 1999’s Born Again Savage. With “The Boss” currently enjoying a lengthy run on Broadway, the E Street Band guitarist is back on the road across the UK in support of Soulfire, bringing with him in tow his sensational 15 piece musical ensemble.
During this incredibly successful run, Steve Van Zandt has shared the stage with Sir Paul McCartney on the opening night of the tour at The Roundhouse in London as well as performing an intimate show at Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club earlier this week.
Having graced the stages of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and stadia throughout his illustrious career, tonight Little Steven closes out his current UK tour on Tyneside with a musical extravaganza at the O2 Academy Newcastle. This being Van Zandt’s first performance in the North East of England since 2012’s show with the E Street band at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
The intention with Soulfire and the subsequent tour that has followed is to reintroduce Little Steven the artist. Over the course of his marathon two and a half hour set Van Zandt showcases the many different facets of his artistry.
Bedecked in his trademark bandana, black suit and colourful scarf Little Steven opens the show by paying tribute to the late great Tom Petty with a stunning cover of “Even The Losers”.
The first half of the night largely centres on the Soulfire album. By his own admittance, the record has ‘a little bit of a different political atmosphere’. Speaking of the rationale behind the shift in focus of his songwriting Van Zandt tells the Newcastle faithful that ‘back in the 80s everything was kind of sneaky and behind the scenes and you couldn’t really tell what was going on’ he follows with ‘at the time I felt an obligation to shine some light on some things that needed attention because everything was a little bit sneaky; now it’s really quite obvious what’s going on’.
Soulfire itself is a collection of songs penned throughout Little Steven’s star-studded career. Besides his solo material, the album reflects upon Van Zandt’s time working with the likes of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Garry US Bonds, as well the occasional cover from some of his influences.
There are many highlights from the Soulfire record featured in the set. These include Van Zandt’s take on the Etta James song “Blues Is My Business”, the Ennio Morricone inspired Gary US Bond collaboration “Standing In The Line of Fire”, the unbelievably infectious “Saint Valentine’s Day” and the funky James Brown classic “Down And Out In New York City”, to name but a few. During the latter of which The Disciples of Soul really spread out and jam.
Collectively this world-class group of musicians bring these songs to life, there is no weak link in the band. The Disciples of Soul come together flawlessly like a huge wall of sound. Throughout the course of the show, they each get their moment in the spotlight.
Subsequently, the crowd are transfixed by Little Steven’s breathtaking trio of backing vocalists who light up the stage all night long with their ferociously energetic dance moves and sublime vocal harmonies.
During the second half of the show, Van Zandt delves deep into his solo body of work. The Disciples of Soul pick up the pace with the garage rock number “Salvation”. On the other hand, the inclusion of both mandolin and accordion perfectly accentuates “Princess of Little Italy”.
The band deliver a trio of reggae orientated numbers which are seamlessly segued together in the shape of “Solidarity”, “Leonard Peltier” and “I Am A Patriot”. During the course of the evening, Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul cover a vast musical landscape with somewhat of a genre-defying performance.
Little Steven brings his main set to a close with a rather fiery rendition of “Bitter Fruit” and the classic “Forever” from his 1982 debut solo album Men Without Women.
Returning to the stage for a duly deserved encore Van Zandt pays homage to Newcastle’s favourite sons – The Animals. Collectively the band delivers a spellbinding cover of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”, which has the audience hanging on every word.
The night is brought to a fitting close with the appropriately titled Southside Johnny number “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” and the anthemic “Out Of The Darkness”.
Tonight’s show is a real celebration of music as well as being somewhat of a political sanctuary from the crazy times the world is going through, the two and a half hour show simply flew over.
Event Date: 17-Nov-2017