For the second time in less than a year, ‘Little’ Steven Van Zandt is on-stage and in charge of Liverpool’s O2 Academy. ‘Sweet Soul Music‘ has opened up the show and a five-piece horn section are breathing new life into the Arthur Conley/Otis Redding standard. The surefire opener sets the tone for the music The Disciples Of Soul will play for over two hours on this sweltering Saturday night. It maybe high summer outside, but it’s ‘Soulfire‘ – the title track of Van Zandt’s first solo album in nearly two decades – that is burning up the crowd in the venue.
‘Little Steven’ has resisted the solo urge to stand by the sides of Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano since 1999’s ‘Born Again Savage‘, but he’s back in the flow now with said new record, tours of the US and Europe and a live album in the rear view mirrors of 2017/18. He’s putting his money where his music is, too, by once again touring with a 15-piece band that are something special to witness in full flow. With horns, three backing singers, piano, organ, flute, guitars, drums and percussion, the troupe make a righteous racket and Van Zandt has them drilled well.
Think James Brown & His Famous Flames, Sam & Dave, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Dukes and, yes, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band… Van Zandt’s musical DNA pours forth throughout the set with melodic and meandering excursions into funk, reggae, rock and something a little more Morricone-esque (the evocative ‘Standing In The Line Of Fire‘). Van Zandt had hits in the 80s and the crowd are singing and dancing along to the likes of ‘Out Of The Darkness‘ and ‘Princess Of Little Italy‘, but new recordings such as ‘Love On The Wrong Side Of Town‘ and ‘The City Weeps Tonight‘ are greeted like old favourites, too… it’s that kind of night.