Steven Van Zandt, guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, actor in the TV-series „The Sopranos“ and „Lilyhammer“, producer, arranger and DJ on his radio show „Little Steven’s Underground Garage“, revived the solo career he had started in 1981 and recorded two new albums in 2017 and 2018 with his band “The Disciples of Soul”.
Following concerts in Australia and New Zealand, they are currently touring Europe before launching a new leg in the US. On the 15 August, Little Steven threw the magic of the Summer of Sorcery Tour over his Budapest audience.
The spectators at the Akvárium Klub were waiting impatiently and were already whistling before 9 pm, the scheduled opening time. Budapest, the only Hungarian stop of the Summer of Sorcery Tour, presented itself as a mixed-age audience to Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, with many young faces, certainly born after the 1980s, the time when Steven Van Zandt went solo.
The band’s opening prologue emphasised and explained the theme of the evening, a magical journey to a worry-free wonderland where summer reigns. Little Steven’s band, almost Bigband-size, features three singer-dancers, Jessica Wagner, Sara Devine and Tania Jones. In their psychedelic paisley costumes and with their tantalising dance moves, they definitely were an eye-catcher.
The powerful rhythm section, was represented by Rich Mercurio on drums, Jack Daley on bass guitar, Anthony Almonte, the percussionist and two men playing keys, Andy Burton and Lowell Levinger. The latter, a multi-instrumentalist, is known as “Banana” and was one of the founding members of a US folk rock group, The Youngbloods.
The horn section, – Stan Harrison, tenor sax and flute, Clark Gayton, on trombone, Ravi Best and Ron Tooley, both trumpeters -, was led by baritone sax player, Eddie Manion. The guitars were played by the show’s musical director Marc Ribler and of course, by Little Steven himself.
“Harmony, Unity, Communion”
The chorus of the opening garage-rock style “Communion” was an ice-breaker that did not fail in its purpose. With “Party Mambo” or the romantic “Love Again”, the audience was presented with a collection of snapshots in the Soul, R ‘n B and Rock music history of the last 60 years. Little Steven referenced songs from his past with Southside Johnny and the Jukes, also playing a song he had written together with Bruce Springsteen, “Love On The Wrong Side Of Town”.
He gave credit to the Motown girl groups of the 1960s, such as Martha and the Vandellas or The Shirelles, as well as to songwriters Mann/Weill and Barry/Greenwich and; which explained the background and temporal context of the songs selected for this part of the show. It was crowned by the most beautiful song on the Summer of Sorcery album, “Suddenly You”. A quiet piece with a Brazilian Samba-Jazz flavour that Little Steven sang with a natural and pure voice, underlining the depth and beauty of the lyrics. He has maintained the unpolished timbre of his voice; it turned this song into one of the highlights of the show.
Swirls of colour and sound
“Vortex” accentuated by police sirens, “Gravity”, or “Education” commencing with an Indian influence, ignited the audience more and more, together with the engaging “Desaparecidos”, a song from Little Steven’s second album “Voice of America”, which is dedicated to the people that have disappeared during the repression of the “guerra sucia” in Argentina and other Latin American countries.
Other songs from the 1980s’ repertoire included “I am a Patriot” or “Camouflage of Righteousness”; they sounded just as fresh as when they were released and fitted well into the concept of the show. Although the concert had a non-political theme, the Maestro drew attention to everybody’s topic, the environment, and spoke with the same conviction he had years ago on other issues.
A celebration of life and love
When the first few beats of “Bitter Fruit” were played, people jumped from their seats and ran to towards the stage, dancing, singing and thus fulfilling exactly the show’s intention, – celebrating life! The band played the timeless “Forever”, pure Rock ‘n Roll with “Superfly Terraplane” but the climax of the show was “Soul Power Twist”, pushing the verve in the room to the maximum. The concert reached its zenith and top energy level, with “Sun City”, ending on an encouraging, soothing but not less dynamic note, “Out of the Darkness”.
This show was a high-speed carousel trip through the music scenery, visiting the genuine and unspoilt places of Rock n’ Roll, Mambo, R ’n B, Soul, Garage Rock, Salsa and Reggae. Little Steven’s Summer of Sorcery is focussed on the music itself but it also leaves a lot of room for emotionally intense lyrics. This outstanding band played music at its finest, passionately performed with many solos. When the lights went on, people’s smiling and happy faces were proof enough that the healing through spiritual nourishment, as declared at the beginning of the show, worked and had already taken place.
“We will be back”, promised Little Steven and no doubt, Budapest is waiting.
European Tour Dates 2019
29 August- Tramshed – Cardiff, UK
31 August – Opera Garnier – Monte Carlo, Monaco
2 September – Arena Wien – Austria, Vienna
Article/photo credits by Fátima Linn www.sentilaprimavera.com