Friday, October 4, 2013

ZOMBIES Concert Review

I've decided to split my review of last Friday Night's Concert into two parts to cover the co-headliners we saw that night.

There's been nothing but good press for the reunited Zombies, featuring original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent ... and it's all well-founded. 

Despite a brief career that yielded three Top Ten Hits  ("She's Not There", #1, 1964; "Tell Her No", #6, 1965 and "Time Of The Season", #1, 1969), it seems to be their most recent work that has really turned out the accolades.  

Last year's comeback album "Breathe Out, Breathe In" played to kudos all around from fans and critics alike ... and the title track (which they performed Friday Night along with one other new track from a forth-coming follow-up release) ... showed the band's commitment to grow and remain relevant all these years later.  They succeeded ... pleasing the crowd every step of the way.  (For me personally "Breathe Out, Breathe In" sounds a lot like a Steely Dan track ... had I not known any better and heard this song unannounced on the radio, I absolutely would have thought, "Hmm ... not a bad new Steely Dan single" ... as such, it also resonates timelessness for a band written off by most so long ago ... I mean, they literally took a 40 year break!)

Blunstone is still in excellent voice as were all of the background harmonies (although the mix could have been better to push Colin's voice out front a bit more.)  They opened with "I Love You", a 1965 B-Side that was later covered (nearly note-for-note) to chart success for the one-hit wonder group People in 1968.  They followed that with their 1965 Hit "Tell Her No" before delving into a few more obscure tracks probably not recognized by much more than the die-hards in the audience.
What they tried to do was present a full career retrospective and, for the most part, it worked.  They even dipped back to their very first LP to recreate their awesome medley of Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" and Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" ... and even fifty years later it still sounded fresh and spot on.   

A fair amount of time was devoted to their critical masterpiece "Odessey and Oracle", an LP that was virtually ignored at the time of its original release back in 1967.  ("Odessey" was reportedly misspelled by the album's art director way back when ... and has appeared this way ever since!)   

They played three tracks from the LP, closing out that short mini-set with the hit single, "Time Of The Season."  It was a letter-perfect rendition ... and I just LOVED the "choreography" that went along with the song.  (lol)  Both Blunstone and Argent gushed about the consistently good reviews this work has received in the 46 years since its first release, often cited as a fan (and band) favorite by new artists coming on the scene, most notably The Foo Fighters, who were mentioned several times Friday Night (and who even covered a track from the LP on their own.)  Without question it has grown in stature and critical acclaim, but there was so much "patting ourselves on the back" going on that casual fans might feel the LP was almost taking on a "Pet Sounds" persona of sorts over the ensuing years ... which is not necessarily the case.   

What they DIDN'T do, however, was explain that at the time of its original release it was deemed such a personal failure that the band actually split up after its release!  It had to be the ultimate disappointment creatively for the band at the time to see this album fail.  They ALSO didn't mention the fact that nearly two years later, while on a talent hunt in England, our FH Buddy Al Kooper discovered this LP and told his bosses at Columbia Records that you've just GOT to put this out here in The States, singling out one track in particular, "Time Of The Season", which went on to top The Pop Singles Chart in 1969, two full years after it was first recorded.  (Columbia Records wasn't as sold as Kooper was ... they stuck it on their Date subsidiary label, usually reserved for soul artists.  Imagine their surprise ... and pleasure ... as the song raced up the charts!)   

By this time the band had split up ... Rod Argent was already in the forming stages of his new band Argent ... but with a hot, hit single to promote, there was talk of perhaps regrouping one more time to see if they could ride out the momentum.  It didn't happen.  Instead, Argent polished off a couple of unfinished tracks to be used as subsequent releases while he concentrated on launching his solo band (which also featured Zombies bassist Chris White in both a song-writing and producing role) while several bogus bands CLAIMING to be The Zombies started gigging around the States trying to cash in on the record's hit status, knowing that the REAL Zombies wouldn't be around to challenge them.  (Note to Readers:  If you saw The Zombies circa 1969 / 1970, you got ripped off ... not a SINGLE member was on board!!!)  Legal action by the original band members and management finally put an end to the rouse.    

Blunstone went on to do guest work on a variety of other artists' LPs, most notably singing a few lead vocals for The Alan Parsons Project.  He performed one of those songs ("Old And Wise" from "Eye In The Sky") to huge audience acclaim Friday Night.  And then, proving that turn-about is fair play, the crowd went absolutely bonkers when the band next performed the Top Five Argent Hit "Hold Your Head Up".  (Argent also gave the crowd a little bit of a singing lesson on this one ... explaining that the lyrics didn't say "Hold Your Head Up, Whoa!, Hold Your Head Up, Whoa!" but rather "Hold Your Head Up, Woman, Hold Your Head Up, Woman" ... and then instructed the crowd to sing it CORRECTLY if they intended to sing along!  (Who knew?!?!?)  This extended-jam performance probably received the biggest single ovation of the night.  (Ironic in a way that it wasn't a Zombies or a Burton Cummings song that did it ... but rather a one-hit wonder by Argent!!!) 

The Zombies closed out their set with their first chart-topper "She's Not There" and then it was on to Burton Cummings.  (More on Burton tomorrow in Forgotten Hits)  

My understanding is that The Zombies were originally booked to perform a solo gig at The Arcada Theatre ... but when that date became a scheduling conflict, they were added to the Burton Cummings gig as the warm-up act.  It was one heck of a bonus for the audience ... a better double bill couldn't have been had.  (In fact, it turned into a TRIPLE bill as The Zombies are currently touring The States with a warm-up group called Et Tu Bruce', who warmed up the crowd Friday Night with there own 35 minute set of music.  Judging by yesterday's reviews, it looks like they won over about half the crowd!  lol)   

Scheduled to play an hour ... but actually performing quite a bit longer ... The Zombies may have over-stayed their welcome by a couple of songs but all in all they put on a very satisfying and entertaining set.  Highly recommended if you have the chance to see them again before they're back off to Europe for more dates.  (The Zombies currently have dates booked throughout January, February and March in the UK)  kk  

Be sure to check out their website for all the latest news and tour dates: