GOOD things, they say, are worth waiting for. Well, that was certainly the case as far as this show was concerned.

It may have been more than 25 years since Steve Van Zandt last ventured out on a European tour not as part of the E Street band but after a joyous, stunning and emotional two hours in Manchester you just hope that he's now back to stay.

I must declare an interest from the outset having being an huge fan since the late Seventies, but for me this was the best live show I've seen this year, and I've seen a few.

Van Zandt doesn't do things by halves - the 15-strong outfit he'd put together to celebrate the release of Soulfire, his first album for over 15 years, barely fit on the Academy stage. We had a five-piece brass section, three backing singers and percussionist plus the usual rock and roll essentials.

And what a glorious noise they produced.

A keen student of rock and roll, this was Van Zandt offering up a master class of all the different aspects of the music he loves. Soul, funk, doo-wop - even reggae - all formed part of the set. If Phil Spector had broadened his horizons further, this would be the end product. It was a massive, multi-layered, sensory experience, which tugged at the heartstrings one moment and left you grinning from ear to ear at the next.

If you could put it on prescription, the world would be a much happier place!

Those who only know Steve Van Zandt as Bruce Springsteen's bandana-wearing sidekick or as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos perhaps won't be aware of his songwriting and musical credentials but this show underlined them to the full.

From Better Days and Love on the Wrong Side of Town which he wrote for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes to Among the Believers which featured on the Van Zandt produced album by Darlene Love to solo material such as I Am A Patriot this was a greatest hits collection of non hits and should have been hits. "Anyone can have a hit," he joked. "Try having a career for 40 years with no hits!"

Van Zandt has said that Soulfire is a record which shows who he is and what defines him musically.

A cover of Etta James The Blues is My Business also showed he's no slouch with a guitar in his hands and James Brown's Down and Out in New York City had a wonderfully sleazy, funky groove throughout.

It's a testament to how good the band is that they could switch from these different styles of music in a heart beat.

The three girl backing singers never stopped moving throughout the show and added an extra dimension to the show; none more so than on the Fifties'-inspired The City Weeps to Night.

Van Zandt himself may dress like an itinerant fortune teller, complete with scarves, bangles and trademark bandana, but he's also a generous frontman, often stepping to one side to allow the musicians around him do their thing.

His voice is not perfect but it doesn't need to be. These are his songs done his way and the whole thing just works beautifully.

A single encore of Out of the Darkness brought the two-hour show to an end. It was a blast from start to finish. It did everything that rock and roll should do - and more beside. Please Steve, don't leave it so long before you come back again.