IT’S a measure of the star power emanated by Bruce Springsteen that a person as uniquely magnetic as “Little” Steven Van Zandt should achieve fame largely through being his sideman. The famously expressive guitarist with Springsteen’s E-Street Band throughout their career together, Van Zandt appeared here with his own backing group the Disciples of Soul – an expansive ensemble featuring a five-piece horn section and a trio of energetic backing singers and dancers – and took on the role of frontperson all by himself.
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, Academy, Glasgow ****
While this wasn’t quite the arena spectacle Van Zandt’s used to in his other job, the still-dynamic 68-year-old – his bandana and flowing silk scarf a stylistic diversion from the look favoured by Silvio Dante, the mobster he played in The Sopranos – delivered a night which was still amongst the first order of old-school rock ‘n’ roll shows you’re likely to see these days.
Focusing on Summer of Sorcery, his first album of new music since 1999’s Born Again Savage, Van Zandt ventured into both his own more extensive back catalogue from the 1980s and a short tribute selection to fellow Springsteen-affiliate New Jerseyites Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, including his own co-composition with Springsteen, Love on the Wrong Side of Town.
The unexpected versatility on display was impressive, from the flute solo which permeated Vortex, to the Caribbean-percussion tribute to West Side Story Bitter Fruit and the joyous main set finale Forever. There was also a sense that Van Zandt and Springsteen’s own political songwriting is in perfect alignment, with his I Am a Patriot dwelling on “the difference between true patriotism and blind nationalism,” and more than one moment of thrilling excitement as his familiar guitar style wound its way around a song.