GIG REVIEW – LITTLE STEVEN AND THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL
Fans of Steve Van Zandt got a rare treat as part of this year’s BluesFest in London – his first UK “solo” appearance for 27 years as “Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul”.
Brought over by promoter (and saxophone player) Leo Green to play at the “Bill Wyman 80th Birthday Bash” which formed part of the BluesFest events schedule, Van Zandt was persuaded to also play a late night Saturday evening full band set at the intimate “Indigo at the O2” venue.
Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul
LGA gig reviewer, Paul Wood, was there to catch the action and a pretty impressive night it was too.
The night’s introductions were kicked off by well known London radio presenter Robert Elms and then a surprise second introduction (specifically at Van Zandt’s request) came from ‘6os pop legend (and modern day music entrepreneur) Dave Clark (leader of the Dave Clark Five).
When the curtains opened you could see that Van Zandt, sporting his traditional long coat, scarves and bandana, had put together a 15 piece band of US and UK musicians – including a 5 piece horn section featuring promoter Leo Green (“it’s all his fault, laughs Van Zandt pointing at Green, “he persuaded me to play”) and original Disciple of Soul/former Asbury Juke, Ed Manion.
LITTLE STEVEN AND THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL GIG REVIEW
With Marc Ribler (Musical M.D. for Darlene Love) acting as 2nd guitar and onstage choreographer, the band power packed their way through a set of over 2 hours to an ecstatic crowd of Van Zandt/Disciples of Soul/Asbury Jukes and Springsteen fans.
Here’s a link to Youtube footage from the gig of the band performing “Until The Good Is Gone” (from the “Men Without Women” album):
Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul Concert
The set list was (broadly) a one third each mix of songs from the “Van Zandt/Disciples of Soul” era (the “Men Without Women” album), songs that were recorded by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes (but written and produced for the Jukes by Van Zandt) and a selection of covers nodding to the “BluesFest” origin of the gig.
Here’s a link to Youtube footage from the gig of the band performing “Forever” (also from the “Men Without Women” album):
At the same evening in the main O2 Arena the BluesFest show was a combination of Richie Sambora and Orianthi supporting Bad Company. Van Zandt joined Ritchie Sambora and Orianthi for a song on their set and the compliment was returned later in the evening with Hook Herrera (from Sambora’s band) joining Van Zandt to play the harmonica on the Jimmy Reed cover, Walking By Myself and then Sambora himself joining Van Zandt for a long encore blast through “Can I Get A Witness”.
Here’s a final Youtube link to footage of the band playing their version of the Southside Johnny classic, “I Don’t Want To Go Home” (“the first song I ever wrote” said Van Zandt) . The night finished to loud cheers as Van Zandt announced that they were recording a new Disciples of Soul album, re-releasing his earlier solo albums next year and that they would be back over here for a proper tour in the summer of 2017. Go catch them when they come over – if the band put together for the tour resembles anything like the band at the Indigo it’ll be a great show.
- Killing Floor
- Comin’ Back
- Inside Of Me
- I Played The Fool
- The Blues Is My Business
- Until The Good Is Gone
- Ride The Night Away
- Groovin’ Is Easy
- All I Needed Was You
- Love Disease
- She Got Me Where She Wants me
- Some Things Just Don’t Change
- Trapped Again
- Down And Out I New York City
- Walking By Myself (with Hook Herrera)
- I Don’t Want To Go Home
- Bitter Fruit
- Can I Get A Witness (with Richie Sambora)
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Here’s a Youtube link to the original promo video shot for the “Forever” single from the “Men Without Women” album. The single made the US Top 100.
A teenage musical prodigy, Lofgren first came to attention when he played with Neil Young on his “After the Gold Rush” album, aged just 17. This led to his then band, Grin signing a record deal and releasing four largely unsuccessful albums between the years 1971–1973.
Signed to a solo deal with A & M, Nils found the spotlight in both the USA and the UK with his first two solo albums “Nils Lofgren” and “Cry Tough”. Released in 1975 and 1976 respectively, these pre-punk albums and Nils’ young gunslinger guitarist reputation caught the public’s attention with the combination of Nils tough and sweet songs and explosive guitar playing.
Nils Lofgren was at this point poised to become one of the next big US stars and his reputation was enhanced with his incendiary live shows, as captured on the “official” 1975 promo only live album – “Back It Up!” (which only appeared as a general release in 2007). A gymnast in his early school days, his trademark live trick was to do a trampoline flip while playing the guitar on stage.
Here’s Nils on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” from 1975 playing “Back It Up” from his debut album. This was his first mainstream UK TV appearance.
A combination of a change in the musical landscape with the punk rock explosion and the less-well critically received follow –up albums “I Came To Dance” and “Night After Night, saw his commercial appeal start to falter (although both of the albums mentioned made the US Top 50), and none of his subsequent LPs charted in the US Top 50.
Whilst maintaining a steady series of solo releases, Nils next came to mass attention when he replaced Steve Van Zandt in the Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, first appearing with Springsteen on his massive “Born In The USA” worldwide tour. When Van Zandt returned to the E Street line up, Nils was retained with the E Street Band and Nils has continued to record/play with the Boss whenever the E Street Band has been called in to action.
Here’s Nils adding typical full 70s wig-out solos (2 minutes in, and then again at 4minutes 30 seconds) on Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love”
Springsteen has returned the favour on Nils’ own solo albums – here’s the official music video for “Valentine” from the Silver Linings (1991) album with Bruce on backing vocals (Ringo Starr on drums!) and a great fluid melodic guitar part from Nils.
When not playing with Springsteen, Lofgren continues to tour and put out albums as a solo act (he has now over 20 solo albums to his name). Sometimes appearing alone, sometimes with one other instrumentalist, and sometimes in a group format, Lofgren always puts on an exhilarating live show with a mix of newer songs and classics from his early solo albums. He still has a guitar technique which can combine both intricate fast and fluid frills and real rock guitar – whether acoustic or electric. Here’s a fantastic solo acoustic clip of Nils playing “Keith Don’t Go” – a classic from his debut album and still a highlight of his set today:
Nils always comes out post-show to meet the crowd, sign autographs and just chat with his fans. If he plays a solo show anywhere near your town – go see him, you won’t be disappointed. Believe!
Although Nils has a wide range of guitars, he is most closely associated with Fender and the Fender Stratocaster – in particular the 1961 model. See this Nils promo video for Fender for a great close up of his playing:
The Loner – Nils sings Neil