Concert Review: The Zombies at City Winery, Manhattan, September 27, 2011
by Johnny "Gutter" Walker / Photos by Greg Cristman
(Article first published as Concert Review: The Zombies at City Winery, NYC 9/27/11 on Blogcritics.)
I went to see The Zombies’ 50th Anniversary show in Manhattan with a slight sense of trepidation. After all, this was the band who first turned me on to the possibilities of rock and pop music when I was knee high to a grasshopper back in Ontario, Canada, where I sat entranced, staring at the psychedelic cover of their now classic album of psych-pop, Odessey and Oracle, as its miraculous songs rolled by one after another on my record player.
Would the Zombies – could the Zombies – possibly still sound the same and conjure up the magic they had, it seemed, effortlessly emitted from the grooves of that vinyl all those years ago?
Colin Blunstone (photo by Greg Cristman)
I needn’t have worried. After a cautious start, befitting a band of British music veterans who know that a warm-up is essential to a great performance, The Zombies, including original members Colin Blunstone on vocals and Rod Argent on keyboards and vocals, found their sweet spot on the night’s fourth song, “Breathe Out, Breathe In,” the title track of their ace new album. From then on, it was clear sailing.
This night, as Argent stressed between songs, was all about “connections,” in which the songs played were not only by the Zombies proper, but by their various inspired solo and group offshoots. One of the best of these was the evening's fifth song, “I Don’t Believe In Miracles,” a yearning ballad of lost love penned by Russ Ballard (the vocalist for Argent's eponymous '70s group), which also became a solo hit in England for Blunstone.
“Any Other Way,” another offering from the latest Zombies platter, its catchy chorus sounding like a hit the band had been playing for years, pushed the concert's momentum forward quite nicely. Then came the moment many in attendance had been waiting for: a six-song mini-set culled from Odessey and Oracle.
Rod Argent (photo by Greg Cristman)
Of these, “A Rose For Emily” highlighted the delicate vocal interplay that is the band’s trademark, with Blunstone and Argent still sounding fresh and unaffected by the years that have passed since they first recorded the song. “Beechwood Park” was suitably eerie, drenched in Argent’s organ stylings, while “Time of the Season,” the band’s biggest hit, retained its feel of the Dionysiac lust and danger underlying the innocence of the Summer of Love. It was a testament to the strength of the band’s new album that two of its songs which followed this transcendent mini-set, “Play It For Real,” and “Moment In Time,” didn’t seem like a huge drop-off in quality. Instead, they fit in beautifully, and by the time of the final triple-hit whammy of “Tell Her No,” “Hold Your Head Up” (a '70s smash for Argent) and “She’s Not There,” the audience was quite delirious with joy.
The “connections” theme again resounded in the encores, as the Zombies showed they are at home at the extreme ends of popular culture by giving an airing to “God Gave Rock and Roll To You,” another Argent hit penned by Russ Ballard and later covered by KISS, and then finishing the night with a very sultry and smoky “Summertime,” a George Gershwin cover which highlighted the skillful crooning of Blunstone.
The Zombies (photo by Greg Cristman)
If there were some in the house who weren't true believers by this point, they remained well hidden. The Zombies had indeed lived up to their ever-expanding legend — and more.
1.Sticks and Stones
2.I Love You
3.Can't Nobody Love You
4.Breathe Out, Breathe In
5.What Becomes of the Brokenhearted
6.I Don't Believe In Miracles
7.Show Me the Way
8.Any Other Way
9.A Rose for Emily
10.Care of Cell 44
11.This Will Be Our Year
13.I Want Her She Wants Me
14.Time of the Season
15.Play It For Real
16.Moment In Time
17.Whenever You're Ready
18.Tell Her No
19.Hold Your Head Up
20.She's Not There
21.God Gave Rock and Roll To You