Last Saturday, I went with my friends Jon and Dave to see Steve van Zandt and his band, the Disciples of Soul, at the Roundhouse. It was his first solo tour for 25 years, although he has been in the E Street Band, supporting Bruce Springsteen, as well as making a name for himself as an actor, in “The Sopranos” and, more recently, “Lillyhammer”. A man of many talents. He and the band released a new album in May this year, called “Soulfire”. It, like the show, is a celebration of the music that inspired Stevie: rock’n’roll, soul, doo-wop and the blues. There’s a strong link to the music of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes too, with the horns to the fore. No surprise about that – Stevie wrote some of Southside’s best tunes, like “I Don’t Wanna Go Home”.
So we were expecting a feelgood show, and that’s exactly what we got, for more than two hours. Stevie talked at the beginning about how his 80s shows were political, at a time when it was hard to find out what was going on. Now politics is in our faces 24/7, and it was Stevie’s mission tonight to provide us with a sanctuary.
The new album formed the basis of the show. I particularly liked “I’m Coming Back”, which was straight out of the Springsteen/ Southside song book. If you know your Bruce, think the uptempo songs on “The River”, or all the songs from the late 70s that didn’t make the main albums, but made a fine contribution to the “Tracks” compilation. The band was excellent: rocking guitars, soaring brass, soulful backing vocals and a tight rhythm section. These guys all knew how to play. So what could have been a standard run through the sounds of old really did sparkle. Never a dull moment!
One of the highlights for me was a lengthy reggae workout, which, I read elsewhere, was called “Solidarity”. Now, rock bands playing reggae are usually best avoided – the Clash and Police honourable exceptions. But Stevie and the band, especially the bassist, who laid down a languid dub wise rhythm, really captured the spirit of the music. The horns played their part like they were part of the Wailers, while the bass and guitars echoed and swayed in a way I would never have expected. I doubt Bruce could have done this, or would even want to. Top marks to Stevie.
The encore was memorable too. Second of three songs was a wonderful version of “I Don’t Wanna Go Home”, but it had to play second fiddle to the opener. Sir Macca of Liverpool – no less than Paul McCartney – only came on to play guitar and sing along to “I Saw Her Standing There”! Whoo-hoo!
Can’t remember much about the third song after those two, but what a great way to end a magnificent show. A two hour celebration of why we love rock’n’roll. We didn’t wanna go home!
And check out this video clip of Stevie and Macca from Rolling Stone magazine. With thanks to Dave for spotting.