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Steven Van Zandt talks about Las Vegas memories, a new album

Ask Steven Van Zandt who is the tougher boss: Bruce Springsteen or Tony Soprano?

“Let me put it this way,” says the singer’s right-hand man who also served the iconic TV crime boss. “If I play the wrong note, at least Bruce won’t have me whacked.”

No wrong notes for Van Zandt — also known as Little Steven — because he is having an uber busy summer with the new documentary film, “Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” about a musical revolution starting in the local clubs. He also is receiving raves for his new solo album, “Summer of Sorcery,” which will bring him to Vegas on Sept. 7 at the Hard Rock’s Big Blues Bender.

There also are rumors of a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band album for 2020, and the matter of a “Sopranos” prequel film.

Review-Journal: How do you describe a perfect Sunday?

Steven Van Zandt: Even though I’m a recovering addict — a political junkie, that is — I still enjoy the political shows on Sunday morning. Sunday is also about pancakes in my house. It’s a tradition that goes back to my mother who used to make pancakes on Sunday morning. Mostly, it’s a take-it-easy day. If it’s a nice day in New York, we might go out and have dinner outside. We bring the dog.

Tell us about the Asbury Park documentary starring both you and Bruce.

It was great when the director came to me with this idea. I really encouraged it. Movies are a long shot. You never know if they will happen. Sure enough, they took it all the way and created this cool documentary about how Asbury Park has meant so much to so many musicians.

Back in the ’60s when you and Bruce started, you could see The Who and other great bands at an Asbury Park club for five bucks!

Five dollars and you were in. You saw this great show with many bands. It was crazy. As musicians, we came from a lucky generation. We had so many opportunities to play in these clubs. There was even a club for kids under 18 that opened at 8 p.m. and stayed open until five in the morning. Can you imagine kids rocking all night long? We played the clubs, the halls and the beach clubs. All you needed was your guitar and a song. It was so important because so much development took place as musicians from ages 18 to 25.

There are rumors of a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band album in 2020. Please say it is so.

We’ll see if it happens or not this year. I booked a tour for my new album that ends in early November just in case Bruce wants to get back together. I wanted to leave enough time to go into the studio with him. I hope it happens, but there are no definite plans. Bruce is always writing. He’s always got a surprise up his sleeve. He likes the freedom of being spontaneous. I totally respect that he has earned the right.

Tell us about your new solo CD, “Summer of Sorcery.”

It has been a major artistic breakthrough for me. Many of my past records have been political and autobiographical. This is an album of 12 little movies. I get to play a different character in each one. This album is more fun because I could really use my imagination a lot more. I’m very, very proud of this album. The theme falls under the broad concept of summer. I thought, “Let’s visit that first rush of summer. That getting out of school feeling when the temperature is changing and you start to fall in love with life and fall in love with love. You feel the bliss of unlimited possibilities that summer brings to those of us who live in places like New York City.” …

In summer, you feel something good is coming. I wanted to make an uplifting album about summer because it’s such a dark time in our civilization. I thought, “Let’s be upbeat and uplifting.” I wanted to provide a little hope and optimism.

Do you remember the first time you played Las Vegas?

Of course! It was in the early ’70s and I was really excited because I was a gambler as a kid, so I was really looking forward to Vegas. I came to town with The Dovells, this band I was touring with in those days. We were doing the oldies circuit and played the Flamingo. I remember meeting Frankie Valli and Fats Domino, nice guys. … I came to Vegas at the very end of the mob era and right before it turned into Disneyland. And I was so glad to catch the original Vegas, which was just so cool.

First impression of Vegas?

It was amazing that there was a lot of space between the hotels. Unlike the East Coast, they weren’t built right next to each other. I loved that for some reason. I also loved those $2.99 buffets. It was the most incredible food I had ever seen, plus the hotel rooms were so cheap and the drinks were free. Everything was about making money off the gambling, which was fine with me while I had my $2.99 breakfast! I remember people going to see Frank and Dean in the lounge at the Sands for $20. You might have to tip someone to get in, but you got in. The vibe was always the best in Vegas.

Why doesn’t Bruce bring the E Street Band to Vegas very often? He plays Phoenix and LA, but rarely Vegas.

Yeah, but we did play Vegas at least once that I can remember. I don’t remember which hotel. It was a while ago now. Who knows? Ten or 15 years ago? I don’t know why we don’t go to Vegas more often.” (They played the Thomas & Mack Center in 2002 and MGM Grand Garden in 2000).

Can’t let you go without talking “Sopranos.” When we last saw your character Silvio Dante, he was shot and in the hospital in a coma. Will he be in the prequel movie due out next year called “The Many Princes of Newark?”

Silvio might make an appearance, you know. I don’t know how old he would be in the movie because it’s a prequel. Maybe 15? All I know is I’m looking forward to seeing it. David Chase (“Sopranos” creator) is doing it himself. You know it’s going to be fantastic.

The late, great James Gandolfini’s son Michael is playing the young Tony Soprano.

He’s a great kid. … Terrific casting.

In your mind does Silvio survive the coma? Does he have another gangster life in him?

(Laughing) Hey, he still had a heartbeat when the show ended. If there ever is a sequel, I’m sure he’ll be there.

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