You want rock ‘n’ roll? You want some good soul music? How about some funk? You want to dance? Maybe a little music history? A rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame legend? A good cause? You’re in luck, because Little Steven Van Zandt’s current tour checks off all of those boxes.
Little Steven’s tour graced Oklahoma City’s Tower Theatre this past Monday night, and I’m still smiling about what I witnessed. In a year that I’ve seen more shows than ever before, this one was pretty darn memorable and special.
Van Zandt is touring behind his recent “Soulfire” release, as well as in conjunction with his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s TeachRock program. During each tour stop, the Foundation hosts a free TeachRock professional development workshop prior to the evening’s show. The workshops are open to local teachers and educators who also received t-shirts and a complimentary ticket to the concert. As Van Zandt stated during the show, “This is my way of showing appreciation and paying back to all my teachers through the years, for all the hell I put them through. It’s going to be a long tour!” I made a point to speak with some of the workshop attendees pre concert. Each of them spoke incredibly highly of the program and the presentation, as well as the continued resources that will be available to them going forward. There is some serious investment being put into play here by Van Zandt and the Foundation, and I can’t think of a more worthwhile cause than supporting our teachers.
Speaking of investments, the music portion of the tour must be substantial as well. I can’t say I’ve ever seen so much equipment being rolled into and out of the Tower for a show before. Road case after road case. Guitar cases, film equipment, you name it. It was all there, and all utilized, and utilized effectively.
Taking the stage to The Beatles’ “The Inner Light,” Van Zandt’s Disciples Of Soul all took their places, rendering the Tower’s spacious stage rather crowded. The Disciples Of Soul are a fifteen piece band, featuring a five piece horn section, two percussionists, a guitarist, bassist, two keyboardists and three sensational, must watch back-up singers. Oh yeah, and one Little Steven.
Van Zandt is a consummate performer. His years as the lieutenant in the mighty E Street band have prepared him to lead this band, and lead it well. Launching into “Sweet Soul Music”, “Soul Fire” and “Lying In A Bed Of Fire”, one barely had a chance to catch your breath. The Disciples Of Soul just might be the tightest band I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live in such an intimate venue. Over the course of the next two and a half hours, Van Zandt and band played non-stop. Songs ranged from early songs written for Southside Johnny such as “Love On The Wrong Side Of Town” and “Some Things Just Don’t Change” to “Until The Good Is Gone” and “Under The Gun” from his solo career. Throughout the night, Van Zandt provided us with some valuable music history and commentary as well. From the Detroit sound and heaping praise on the Temptations, and David Ruffin in particular, to Blaxploitation films. The later of which led into the absolute highlight of the evening for me, James Brown’s “Down And Out In New York City”. Using the gritty funk driven song to highlight the band was masterful. The song was long, jammed out and featured each member taking a turn in the spotlight. Other highlights were the mambo flavored “Bitter Fruit” and the perfectly placed “Princess Of Little Italy” which featured Lowell ‘Banana’ Levinger on mandolin. Levinger, is best known as a member of The Youngbloods, and was even serenaded by the crowd with a bit of “Get Together”.
This really was a special night of music. I can honestly say the most impressive thing about Van Zandt and the Disciples Of Soul performance is the unmitigated joy expressed on the stage. Throughout the night, it was apparent that there is tremendous mutual respect and a special energy being exchanged by the band. This is a group of people that love playing music together and it definitely carries over into the audience. That’s about everything you could want from a live performance, and it’s a must see performance.
Little Steven Van Zandt and The Disciples Of Soul tour continues well into December. You can find dates and information here: https://www.littlesteven.com/on-tour/
You can also find out more information about Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s TeachRock program by visiting here: https://www.littlesteven.com/teachrock