Little Steven And The Disciples Of Soul performing their Soulfire Tour at Birmingham O2 Academy on Friday 10th November 2017.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

They say that good things are worth waiting for and last night the wait was well worth it, as Steven Van Zandt and his Disciples Of Soul came to the Birmingham O2 Academy on the fourth night of their first UK tour in over 25 years.

In between playing gangster Frank ‘The Fixer’ Taquano in TV’s Lilyhammer and as Bruce Springsteen’s bandana wearing sidekick, Van Zandt’s solo career has been on the back burner and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn’t had a full length record out under his own name since 1999. This year he rectified that and he is now touring to promote his new album, Soulfire.

The album is predominantly a collection of songs that he has written for other artists over the years and covers most of the soul/rock genre, as Southside Johnny And The Asbury Dukes and Gary U.S. Bonds can testify,

With the stage groaning under the weight of a keyboardist, Hammond organ player, drummer, bassist, lead guitarist, percussionist, five piece brass section and three fabulous backing singers, Van Zandt and his Disciples offered up a master class of all the different aspects of the music he loves; soul, funk, doo-wop, even reggae, all formed part of their set.

Opening with Even The Losers, a song written for Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, they quickly followed it up with the album title Soulfire, which saw the band throwing lashings of gospel organ at it and setting the tone for the rest of the evening.

There was Love On The Wrong Side Of Town, I Am A Patriot, Angel Eyes and Forever from his solo collection which saw a steaming horn section and searing guitar solos. A cover of Etta James’ The Blue Is My Business also showed that Van Zandt is no slouch with a guitar and the Blaxploitation wah wah pedal funk of James Brown’s Down And Out In New York City had a wonderfully sleazy, funky groove throughout.

The three female backing singers never stopped moving all night and added an extra dimension to the show, none more so than on the 50s inspired The City Weeps Tonight which was steeped in doo-wop harmonies. The band switched from different genres of music in a heartbeat, showing just how good they were. There was even the reggae tinged Bitter Fruit which went down a storm.

Finishing his twenty five song set with Out Of The Darkness, the whole evening had been a blast from start to finish and had done everything that rock and roll should do, and more besides. Whilst his voice was not perfect, Van Zandt, looking like an escapee from the film set of Pirates of the Caribbean, had delivered the songs in his own way and the whole thing had worked beautifully.

Clearly believing in giving value for money, he was on stage for two and a half hours and he made it all look so effortless. Here’s hoping Van Zandt doesn’t leave it another 25 years before he comes back, because on last night’s performance he has certainly bolstered his fan base.