Sixty years ago, if you had told a member of British rock band The Zombies that they would continue in 2022, they would have called you crazy.
Following the original flop of Odessey & Oracle– the band’s 1968 magnum opus – everyone decided to call it quits, until they got together once in a while, starting in the late 80s. Flash forward to the 21st century, and the original members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone still defy the odds, alongside guitarist Tom Toomey, drummer Steve Rodford and bassist Søren Koch. Rodford’s father Jim, a later member of The Kinks, performed with The Zombies from 2001 until his death in 2018, and like the band’s other original members – most of whom are still alive – he’s there in spirit. from.
Just before 9pm on Tuesday night, 106.3 WGUL-FM’s Marvelous Marvin came on stage to introduce the former Brits, and as soon as everyone was set, Argent took the mic to explain what was to come. You know, “It’s great to be back on stage, COVID-19 has been a very difficult time, yada yada yada.” Then came the mention of Zombies’ impending album, the band’s first since 2015. I still have this hunger. He promised that the Clearwater would be treated to new unreleased tracks, one of which had never been performed on stage until Tuesday night.
Once the show kicked off with “Moving On,” Blunstone, dressed in a yellow and gray scarf, black coat and gray V-neck, took the mic to introduce “I Want You Back Again,” which was recently re-recorded after the guys heard a live recording of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playing an amazing version of the song at the Fillmore in 1997. “To be completely honest, I think Rod and I forgot about that song” , he admitted.
At first, it looked like it was going to be a hardcore Zombies fan night. Deep cuts, new material and B-sides. That is, until the addition of “I Love You” opens up for the never-before-played song. A title could not be found, but I’m pretty sure it was played in the C# key. Clearwater also received the brand new “You Could Be My Love”, a piano ballad that has only been performed a few times before.
The new music had been introduced, and now everything was on deck. “Tell Her No” was the first single of the night, and “Old and Wise”, an Alan Parsons song that Blunstone originally sang on, was introduced with a story about how the Zombies singer had to fly to New York to sing for a Noxzema commercial, and was told to sing with an American accent. “I didn’t know, by the way,” Argent interrupted. “Money in my pocket, bye!” Blunstone concluded.
Then came the part of the evening that so many people had come for: Odessey & Oracle section. Five would salute the album, beginning with “Care of Cell 44”. The second track on the record, “A Rose For Emily”, was a good idea, as was the hopeful “This Will Be Our Year” and “I Want Her, She Wants Me” sung by Argent. O&O closer together “Time of the Season” featured a three-minute solo from Argent that received the standing ovation it deserved.
But just because the section with songs from The Zombies’ ultimate masterpiece is on doesn’t mean the old guys are quite done.
Another new song, “Merry Go Round”, has appeared and features the lyrics “life is a merry-go-round” which inspired the name of the current tour. Later, Argent made it clear that the chorus of “Hold Your Head Up” is “Hold your head up, woman”, not “Whoa”. His instructions for what turned out to be the best-received song of the night worked, because after a seven-minute instrumental there were hardly any voices in the less than exhausted crowd that wasn’t on their feet, shouting the title of the song over the music. With that burst of energy over, “She’s Not There” wrapped up the main set, and the full close was a performance for original “The Way I Feel Inside” members only.
There’s no doubt that zombies are more famous now than they were in their heyday. The guys even got Donna Summer’s widow, Bruce Sudano, to open the show. He basically told his life story through a song, “Springsteen On Broadway” style. Included were a few he wrote for Tommy James and the Shondells, and the disco star hit “Bad Girls.” Sudano even managed to sell figurines of himself at the merchandise table. Go figure.
Come to think of it, why didn’t Zombies do that? I would love a little Silver Rod bobblehead for my desk.