Danforth Music Hall
July 10 2019
Continuing his resurgence as an active solo artist, Little Steven Van Zandt followed his 2017 comeback album Soul Fire with a multi-disc live set documenting that campaign Soul Fire Live! and the exceptional new Summer of Sorcery release. Being a contemporary artist of course means pushing the new product and on July 10 2019, Van Zandt and his Disciples of Soul hit Toronto to do just that. In a welcome bit of serendipity, July 10 is the exact date that Little Steven played Toronto 35 years ago on the tremendous 1984 Voice of America tour.
Scheduled for the Phoenix Concert Theatre, the new show was moved two days before to the Danforth Music Hall, where they had performed in 2017.
If anyone was expecting a rerun of that fantastic display on the Soul Fire tour (reviewed here ), they were in for a surprise. Not only did the band incredibly present all twelve tracks from Summer of Sorcery, they also played five songs not done last time. These included "Camouflage of Righteousness" (from 1999's Born Again Savage album but with riffs from 1984's "Fear" added for good measure), "Los Desaparecidos" (originally on the Voice of America release), his 1985 anti-apartheid anthem "Sun City" and two songs originally recorded by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes "Little Girl So Fine" and "Trapped Again". During "Education" (originally on the 1989 Revolution album but warmly re-recorded for Summer of Sorcery) a keytar solo kept things fun. Before "I Visit The Blues", organist Lowell "Banana" Levinger played a bit of "On Sir Francis Drake" from his old band The Youngbloods' 1969 album Elephant Mountain. The lone song from the Soul Fire album performed was the Southside Johnny number "Love On The Wrong Side Of Town" (featuring Van Zandt and music director Marc Ribler both playing black Rickenbackers) while the essential 1982 debut album Men Without Women was represented only by his wonderful first single "Forever".
For a gentle take on new track "Suddenly You", Levinger played his own signature Giacomel 5-string tenor guitar.
The two hours and twenty minute show ended with Steven promising that "the far right is only temporary!" before launching into the hopeful 1984 mission statement "Out of the Darkness".
What's apparent during this recent revival of his solo career, is just how much fun Van Zandt is having on stage. Politics still plays a big part in the show (a recent lyric: "take that second amendment and stick it up your ass!") but there's never a dull moment with the colourfully attired band members including the horn section and trio of female backing vocalists in constant movement. At this point in his career, Van Zandt is working harder than ever and the joyous results are paying off for the fans who come to dance, sing, party and perhaps most importantly of all, mambo!