Little Steven Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul brought their “Summer of Sorcery” tour to Easton Friday night with spellbinding results.
The 68-year-old guitarist and his colorfully-clad, 14-piece backing band conjured up a tight and energetic three-hour performance at the State Theatre. Then again, when your other band is led by Bruce Springsteen, well, marathon concerts are part and parcel for the job.
Van Zandt and the Disciples — whose ranks include keyboardist and The Youngbloods founding member Lowell Levinger, three female backup singers and a horn section — came thumping and bumping out of the gate. From his pulpit under the lights, Van Zandt and Co. opened with a fiery rock ‘n’ roll testimonial in the form of their song “Communion.”
“Somebody open up the door, baby I’m ready to rock some more,” Van Zandt belted into the microphone, six-string slung around his neck, as the audience rose to their feet in applause. Midway through the tune, Van Zandt stepped out front for a blistering guitar solo.
The Rock and Hall of Fame guitarist also showed his mettle as a showman and bandleader throughout the night, not to mention a strong set of pipes that held up for the duration of the show. (Van Zandt was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014 with the E Street Band.) He never stopped moving; Van Zandt shuffled, shimmied and danced across the stage, sending cues to his bandmates when he wasn’t playing guitar or singing.
Van Zandt also paid tribute to his Garden State brethren SouthSide Johnny and the Asbury Jukes with heartfelt renditions of the Van Zandt and Springsteen-penned “Little Girl So Fine” and “Trapped Again.”
Revved-up Van Zandt jammers “Superfly Terraplane” and the “Soul Power Twist” were sung and played with a exuberance that tipped its hat to ‘60s girl groups and the music of influential lyricist Jerry Leiber and composer Mike Stoller (the duo responsible for such early pop hits as “Hound Dog,” “Stand By Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Yakety-Yak”).
Van Zandt’s knack for melding genres in his music was evident throughout the night — his set ranged from the Caribbean-inspired “Party Mambo!” to the reggae-meets-Middle Eastern-tinged “Education.” However, his greatest strength proved to be tapping into his love of old-school rock ‘n’ roll and the elated sense of innocence and summer love that come with it.