I had seen Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone at Cavestomp in NYC back in 2001, when they had first started touring again as ‘The Zombies’. While great to see, I found that show to be a bittersweet disappointment. They only did 6 Zombies songs and they also did the same number of Argent songs (the Rod Argent fronted group from the 70’s). Problem was that the 6 Zombies tracks totalled about 15 minutes, while the bloated, art rock Argent tracks totalled 40-45 minutes. The show was enjoyable, but not really what customers paying to see The Zombies were expecting. What bothered me most was that, from my perspective, Argent and Blunstone had poor perspective on their history. At that point in time, they seemed to be pretty unaware of the impact that their 60’s music had on the patrons at Cavestomp. Rod Argent introduced The Zombies track ‘Indication’ as a track that ‘none of you have probably ever heard’, and seemed dumbfounded by the fact that the majority of the audience was singing along and that the song most certainly got one of the loudest and jubulant reactions of the evening. It seemed to me at that juncture that Rod Argent, in particular, regarded his somewhat overblown and bombastic work from the 1970’s as very serious work, while his 1960’s work was less relevant.
Well, i guess somewhere along the way, Argent and Blunstone found the plot, as the current tour is an entirely different spectacle indeed! The show is split into 2 parts. In the first part, Argent and Blunstone come out with their current incarnation of touring Zombies, which include longtime Argent and Kinks bassist Jim Rodford. The set includes a handful of Zombie singles and fan favorites, including the massive hits ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Tell Her No’, another handful of tracks from the brand new released ‘Zombies’ album (which to the crowds surprise and delight were beyond servicable), a couple of soul covers (Smokey Robinson, Solomon Burke), plus one solo track from Colin Blunstone, and the massive Argent arena rock classic ‘Hold Your Head Up’, which, I must admit, was great and got a huge response from the audience. It must be noted that I would say that Colin Blunstone has an amazing voice for a man 70 years old. But that wouldn’t be fair, Colin Blunstone has a spectacular voice for a man of any age!
After a 15 minute or so break, The Zombies return to the stage, but a different group of Zombies. Argent and Blunstone are now joined onstage by the other 2 surviving members of the original band, Chris White and Hugh Grundy (Paul Atkinson passed away a couple of years back). They are set to perform their psychedelic masterpiece, ‘Odessey and Oracle’ in its entirety. The fact that we, the audience, are about to be treated to this, may not be quite as unlikely and shocking as Brain Wilson completing ‘Smile’ after it being dormant for over 35 years, but it comes a fairly close 2nd. The original lineup is complemented by the rest of the touring band, on extra percussion and backing vocals, a femaie backing vocalist, and the fantastic Darian Sarahanja (Wondermints/Brian Wilson Band) on Mellotron/additional keyboards. It starts off with ‘Care of Cell 44’ and we are off and running for approximately 40 minutes. The band must be commended for the attention to detail they took in recreating every sound from the original LP. A terrific job was done on every level. But, even though obvious, I am always blown away how the songs take on a different meaning when they are performed so many years after they were first written. Certainly songs like ‘Brief Candles’, ‘This Will be our Year’, and, especially ‘A Rose For Emily’ (‘and as the years go by, she will grow old and die’) take on a fresh perspective performed by men in or nearing their seventies, as opposed to being performed by boys barely in their twenties. It was a highlight to hear ‘Changes’, the song that leads off side 2 of the original LP, with Blunstone, Argent, and White each taking a verse. But the most poignant and moving moment of the evening had to be Chris White taking center stage for the lead vocal on ‘Butcher’s Tune’, his anti war statement, which, heard now, is even more chilling in a world where post tramatic stress disorder is discussed in more than just a subdued hush. The ovation and recognition he received from the crowd was a very deserved and heartwarming cap on a fine evening. Not long after the ‘Odessey’ portion of the evening concluded with ‘Time of the Season’, the song that became a Number One smash two years after the group broke up in 1967. By then, the band members had all moved on and the rest is history, as they say. The only part of the evening I found mildly disappointing was the encore, ‘She’s Not There’ with the full band, even though they had already performed the song in the first half of the show with the current band. Maybe ‘Imagine the Swan’ was too big a dream on my part, but I sure would have settled for ‘Don’t Cry for Me’ or just about anything else from the glory days that was not the same song for the 2nd time of the night. But all is forgiven. Another can be crossed off the bucket list for myself and many others who were lucky enought to hear and witness.
– John Bastone