By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa and Vlad, Rock At Night Detroit
Venue: The Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, Florida–The Zombies with support by Liz Brasher
The year 2019 is proving to be The Zombies’ year again. Basking in the glory of its induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame this spring, the band has taken to the road to share its classics plus selected nuggets from lead man Rod Argent’s solo work. An army of baby boomers (of all sizes and styles) packed Clearwater’s elegant Capitol Theatre on February 19th to see Argent and original vocalist Colin Blunstone, (plus a trio of able sidemen) illustrate why they’re so worthy of the ascent to rock-and-roll Valhalla.
Shortly after releasing 1967 opus Odessey and Oracle, ranked 100th by Rolling Stone in its list of greatest albums, the group disbanded, the group’s members dispersed to different corners of the music industry. Classics survive time, however, and a new generation of fans encouraged the bandmates to recently reunite, release new recordings, and share the memorable atmospheres and melodies of Odessey with live audiences.
For the 50th anniversary of the album’s release, four surviving original band members Argent, Blunstone, Chris White, and Hugh Grundy toured North America, recreating the album’s signature sounds even down to the distinctive Mellotron string lines. This clearly registered strongly with their fan base, likely influencing the group’s choice for rock HOF selection. Think of this winter’s jaunt as a victory lap.
Opening act Liz Brasher warmed up the audience with a range of R&B and gospel-tinged tracks from her debut album Painted Image. Deftly alternating between electric guitar and the keys during the set, Memphis-based Brasher showed versatility as both a singer and musician. Highlights included instrumentals with 60s garage rock and surf rock influences.
Following a brief interlude of apropos recordings from their contemporaries (including fellow HOF inductees Roxy Music), the musical masters of ceremony emerged to deliver a show of impeccable vintage material and sterling delivery—eschewing modern show gimmickry like background videos or flashing lights. The audience strongly approved—and, in an interesting show of bond with the band, also dispensed with any of the gimmicks their kids or grandkids would have brought. No cell phones, no selfies.
The music and musicians were the stars of the show—what a concept!
Front man Blunstone commanded attention with presence, vocal power, richness, and velvety nuance. Argent similarly brought his “A” game, delivering an array of stirring, yet clean, chops on Hammond and electric piano.
With a mix of covers like “Road Runner” by Bo Diddley to the group’s original “I Love You” (made famous by Californian band People!) the evening evoked nostalgia and memories of youth.
At one point, Blunstone told the audience, “We don’t always play all the new stuff” and dedicated the two songs to a fan he met at the evening’s Meet & Greet who confessed loving the band’s 2015 album Still Got That Hunger. The band performed the rocking “Moving On” and bluesy “Edge of the Rainbow.”
From the opening tones of “Tell Her No,” the audience was mesmerized, enraptured and sang along to the familiar chorus. There was a lot of hand-clapping along to the cover of the Temptations chestnut “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me/Bring It On Home to Me,” originally covered by the band on their 1965 album The Zombies.
Rock At Night’s favourite part of the show was possibly the sequence of hits from Odessey and Oracle, including the hit “Time of the Season,” “Care of Cell 44”, “I Want Her, She Wants Me” and our personal favorite “This Will Be Our Year.”
Blunstone shared with the audience that the album, originally not a success, came to influence many future songwriters, like Paul Weller (the Jam/Style Council) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana). The late Tom Petty confessed his first concert was seeing the Zombies in Jacksonville, Florida. Blunstone lamented, “We got to know him well before he passed.” He continued saying the album Oracle sells more albums every year today than when it was originally released.
A memorable episode from this time machine evening was a scene from the audience during “Time of the Season.” While the majority of the mature onlookers were seated, one concertgoer was intent on moving to her own beat. Decked out in lamé and sporting a blond ponytail à la Barbara Eden, she conjured a sock-it-to-me moment from Laugh-In, go-go dancing and frolicking up and down the aisle!)
Before breaking into his anthemic solo classic “Hold Your Head Up,” Argent humorously reminded the audience that the chorus is “Hold your head up, woman!” before delivering a blistering set on the Hammond, eventually segueing into a medley that included Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Argent distinguished himself among other the organ virtuosos of his era by not letting improvisation run to excess or bombast, and this trademark was clearly on display this evening.
Before breaking into the evening’s penultimate number “She’s Not There,” Blunstone noted that it was the first song he wrote.
Forgoing a formal encore, the band closed out the set with another rousing Argent singalong anthem “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” consolidating a satisfying evening of 60s nostalgia and impressive voicings and musicianship.
Look for the band to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony in New York City on March 29th—an honor long overdue for this iconic and ground-breaking band!
Band Members: Rod Argent (keys, vocals), Colin Blunstone (vocals), Tom Toomey (guitar, vocals), Søren Koch (bass, vocals), and son of the late Jim Rodford, Steve Rodford (drums, vocals).
- Road Runner
- I Want You Back Again
- I Love You
- Moving On
- Edge of the Rainbow
- Tell Her No
- This Will Be Our Year
- You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me / Bring It On Home to Me
- Care of Cell 44
- I Want Her She Wants Me
- Time of the Season
- Old and Wise
- Hold Your Head Up
- She’s Not There
- God Gave Rock and Roll to You