Miami Steve Van Zandt has written some first-class, blue-collar rock songs for Southside Johnny as well as for his own recent solo debut album. Last night at the Bayou, Van Zandt played many of these songs with his top-notch, 10-man band, Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul. Unfortunately, he undermined both his songs and his band with his thin, limited voice.
For example, Van Zandt has written a catchy melody for "Angel Eyes," and his crack five-man horn section from the Asbury Jukes brought it out. His narrow vocal range, however, couldn't. The lyrics to "Inside of Me" carried overtones of defiant working-class pride, but the vocal was just a hoarse shout.
Bassist Jean Beauvoir, former Young Rascal drummer Dino Danelli and Van Zandt himself on rhythm guitar pounded out a powerful rock-soul rhythm in the Rolling Stones tradition, especially on "Save Me." The horn section sounded particularly full and sharp on Southside Johnny songs such as "I Don't Wanna Go Home." Van Zandt, long in Bruce Springsteen's shadow in the latter's band, proved himself as a songwriter (the quality of tunes never let up) and as a bandleader, but as a vocalist he had no business anywhere near Otis Redding's "Respect," which was the encore.