Earlier this month, Steve Van Zandt heard an interesting factoid about his 1985 protest classic “Sun City” from New Zealand writer Russell Baillie: The song may have been popular all over the world, but nowhere more so than New Zealand and Australia where it peaked at #4. “Wow, “Van Zandt said. “I had better considering adding that to the set.”
When his ongoing world tour with the Disciples of Soul touched down in Perth, Australia on April 13th he did just that when the song popped up in the encore section of his show. It’s the first time he played it with the Disciples of Soul since 1987, though he did play it in Cape Town, South Africa with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 2014. Here’s video of Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul playing the song in Adelaide, Australia on April 16th. “That evil kingdom ain’t there no more because of this song,” he told the crowd, referencing Apartheid-era South Africa. “Eventually, it’s going to be Wakanda. You ready to sing?”
Little Steven wrote “Sun City” in 1985 to convince artists like like Queen, Rod Stewart, Elton John and Cher to stop performing concerts at the Sun City casino resort in South Africa. Much like “We Are the World” (which came out earlier that year) it attracted many big name guest vocalists, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Herbie Hancock, RUN DMC, Bono, Jimmy Cliff, Joey Ramone, George Clinton, Darlene Love and many, many others. The song had a huge impact and most groups immediately stopped playing at Sun City.
On May 3rd, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul will release Summer of Sorcery, their first album of original songs in 20 years. They are on tour throughout the rest of the year and will be coming to North America in late June. Who knows if they’ll keep playing “Sun City” after the Australia and New Zealand dates, but Van Zandt did reach out to Baillie on Twitter to credit him with the idea of bringing it back. “You are totally responsible for Sun City being in the set,” he wrote. “So thank you for that. It’s a lot of fun to play! Who knew?”