LIVE: Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul @ the Palace Theatre, 5/4/18
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
There’s really nothing “little” about Little Steven.
He has a big band – 14 members strong.
And he has a big heart.
Both were clearly in evidence at the joyous concert he gave recently at Albany’s Palace Theatre on his Soulfire Tour.
The band – dubbed the Disciples of Soul – was a throwback to the kind of rock & soul revues popular in the ’60s. And the setlist reflected that retro feel – soul and blues covers along with a healthy helping of tracks from both Steven’s solo career and the band he wrote for are produced – Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. The Jukes were a great band, never attaining the stadium-conquering fame of that other New Jersey outfit that Steven has served in, but a unique gang of garage rockers nonetheless, who for some reason wanted to sound like a supercharged Ronettes.
At the Palace, of course Bruce Springsteen was mentioned, being also a key co-composer and cheerleader for those first three classic Jukes albums, but Steven never rode on the coattails of the Boss – there were no E Street Band hits played this evening.
The band kicked it from the start – a romp through Arthur Conley’s classic “Sweet Soul Music,” the horns blaring, the backing vocalists shimmying and the guitars growling. And they didn’t let up until the final strains of “Out of the Darkness” some two hours later. Along the way we had Jukes classics like “Love on the Wrong Side of Town” and “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” a street corner doo-wop lament “The City Weeps Tonight” and a wonderfully funky obscure James Brown soundtrack number “Down & Out in New York City,” in which each member of the horn section took an extended solo.
Ladies & gentlemen, the Disciples of Soul are Marc Ribler (guitar), JaQuita May, Sarah Devine & Tania Jones (vocals), Andy Burton & Lowell Levinger (keyboards), Troy’s own Jack Daley (bass), Rich Mercurio (drums), Anthony Almonte (percussion) and Eddie Manion, Stan Harrison, Clark Gayton, Ravi Best & Ron Tooley (horns).
Groovin’ isn’t actually easy – but they certainly made it appear so.
And the head & the heart? Little Steven up front, with his trademark bandana and swirl of scarves.
Not only did he share his hippie ideals and let the audience know (without ever self-righteously preaching), that we should all stick together, to be kind to one another, that love conquers hate, things that can’t be said too often these days, but he is putting his money where his mouth is. Sales of his “Magic bandanas” benefit the Ronald McDonald House.
And the whole tour is subtitled the Teacher Appreciation Tour, and, yes, teachers who attend a pre-show workshop to discuss lesson plans and resources, get in free to the concert.
Much like his long time Boss, Little Steven believes in the redemptive power of music.
And when he testified at the end of the show that there truly is a way out of the darkness, he’ll make a believer out of you, too.
LITTLE STEVEN & THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL SET LIST
Sweet Soul Music
I’m Coming Back
The Blues Is My Business
Love on the Wrong Side of Town
Until the Good Is Gone
Some Things Just Don’t Change
St. Valentine’s Day
Standing in the Line of Fire
I Saw the Light
The City Weeps Tonight
Down & Out in New York City
Princess of Little Italy
Groovin’ Is Easy
Ride the Night Away
I Don’t Want to Go Home
Out of the Darkness