Rocker/actor/producer/radio programmer Steve Van Zandt may be at his best in the role of Little Steven.
The bandanna on his head, the scarf and beads around his neck, the rings on his fingers, and a guitar slug low.
On Friday night at the Ames Center in Burnsville, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul delivered a hard-charging, foot-stomping, horn-inflected, music-educating, crowd-thrilling rock ‘n’ soul party.
Little Steven gave shout-outs to teachers (including free tickets to those who attended a pre-concert workshop); advocated for arts education; urged people to vote; taught the audience a little rock ‘n’ roll history (with visits to Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” Etta James blues, original doo wop, a Motown-inspired original and James Brown jazz-funk), and examined his non-Springsteen catalog. In other words, he offered songs he wrote for Southside Johnny and his own solo recordings.
For 2 1/2 hours, Little Steven and his terrific 13-piece band rocked. He filled the evening with personality, charisma, musicality and galvanizing guitar. What he didn't demonstrate was a commanding singing voice and varied dynamics. The 23-song set suffered from sameness.
That’s one reason why the non-partisan “I Am a Patriot,” with its reggae undercurrent, stood out. Other highlights included “Salvation,” a soul rocker with muscular guitar, and “Ride the Night Away,” a full-bore rocker.
Whether viewed as a Boss surrogate or a famous sideman gone solo, Little Steven proved it all night to 800 Springsteen-loving fans.