Van Zandt on Bruce’s new script

Steve Van Zandt on playing music for fun with Bruce Springsteen for almost 40 years

"It's a three-hour tornado," says Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band's live shows. As The Boss's guitar player, backing singer, and the other half of an on-stage double act for almost 40 years, he knows more than anyone why the shows continue to blow audiences away year after year.

“Every time we go out it’s sort of like a new experience, it’s a new film, if you will, and Bruce has written a new script,” adds Van Zandt (aka Miami Steve, or Little Steven). That script can change by the minute. With Springsteen picking fans’ song requests written on cardboard, there are plenty of surprises for the audience. “And me too,” laughs Van Zandt.

"We did one the other day, Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Now the last time you heard that on the radio was probably 1968. I never played it. None of us ever played it in our groups at the time. We play it for the first time on stage, no rehearsal, nothing. Just what you remember. That's fun. That's just pure fun."

Clarence Clemons
As the Wrecking Ball tour has progressed (including two previous shows in Dublin), he says this has seen a "major evolution" for the band, returning to rock's roots partly as a need to adapt to the great loss of saxophonist Clarence Clemons. "You don't want to make a transformation where you're not, but we took the E-Street essence and we just went widescreen with it."

Van Zandt gained even greater fame for his role as consigliere Silvio Dante in The Sopranos and has described its star James Gandolfini, who died last month, as being like a "brother".


“I learned a lot about this from Jimmy Gandolfini, one of my best friends and mentor as an actor. We both have that working-class mentality and find ourselves occasionally being the star or being the celebrity and it doesn’t quite fit. I think that’s what drew us so close.”

Van Zandt is again starring as a gangster – this time exiled to Norway – in TV drama Lilyhammer. He also presents a weekly radio show, with five million listeners worldwide, and broadcast here through Dublin City FM. "It's all 60 years of rock and roll in one place."

As a musician, he was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement, but now, "all my political energy is pretty much directed towards saving rock and roll, which is an endangered species."


As for Ireland, what keeps bringing Springsteen and the E-Street Band back so often? “We’re constantly mixing these two things that rock and roll mixed, which is essentially the Irish folk roots with soul and blues. I think Bruce’s exploration of that has brought the whole band and everybody closer to the Irish audience.”

Little Steven's Underground Garage show is on 103.2 Dublin City FM, Saturday's 10-midnight

Shane Hegarty

Shane Hegarty

Shane Hegarty, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an author and the newspaper's former arts editor