The Zombies, who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their formation in England in 1961, are just as incredibly celebrating their biggest roll since their mid-’60s hitmaking heyday.
Their new U.K. album Breathe Out, Breathe In is getting rave reviews at home. And they never sounded better than they did last night at City Winery, the first of two nights there following last week’s stellar performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
The set went back and forth between old and new, beginning with two early tunes, “Sticks And Stones” and “I Love You,” the latter marked by vocalist Colin Blunstone’s piercing chorus. He looked like he was having the time of his life, and why not? These songs have well stood the test of time–as has Blunstone’s highly influential, if underappreciated, singing voice.
Same with his fellow Zombies founding member Rod Argent. One of the great keyboard players in rock ‘n’ roll history, Argent dazzled on “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” the Motown standard that was a U.K. hit for Blunstone and Dave Stewart in 1980.
The group performed several songs from Breathe Out, Breathe In including the titletrack, “Show Me The Way,” “Play It For Real” and “A Moment In Time”–which Argent fashioned out of a striking acoustic guitar riff from new guitarist Tom Toomey. A superb segment of songs from their landmark 1968 album Odessey and Oracle included “A Rose For Emily,” “This Will Be Our Year” (recently covered by Foo Fighters on their Medium Rare album), “Beechwood Park,” “I Want Her, She Wants Me” and monster hit “Time of the Season”–Argent here reprising the record’s magnificent keyboard solo.
The current Zombies, who also include longtime associate Jim Rodford on bass and his son Steve Rodford on drums, finished huge with early singles “Whenever You’re Ready” and “Tell Her No,” Argent’s 1972 solo hit (as Argent) “Hold Your Head Up,” and a triumphant version of the band’s 1964 breakthrough hit “She’s Not There.” The encores were a fabulous version of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which Argent said was supposed to be their first single (and clearly would have worked) and the Argent band’s “God Gave Rock And Roll To You,” which had Blunstone singing with his arms stretched out in glorious benevolence, as if extending to his followers The Ten Commandments.
Smartly packaged, the evening opened with Acoustic Strawbs, made up of The Strawbs’ Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk. Like The Zombies, Acoustic Strawbs have aged well indeed–as has their English folk rock styling, here embellished by bright acoustic guitar play.
Their set started with The Strawbs’ first single “Oh, How She Changed” (prompting Cousins to enthuse that they were “still alive” 40-plus years after its 1968 release) and included a tribute to the late Sandy Denny, who sang with them early on. But Cousins gets special credit for his salesmanship.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” he said, “but there are only 84 shopping days left to Christmas. You might have an elderly relative who might enjoy the gift of a Strawbs album….”
Sure enough, the merchandise table was well-stocked with Strawbs albums–and Cousins guaranteed a 100 percent return policy: “If you don’t like it, send it back and we’ll send you one we don’t like!”
Subscribe to my knotmove.com pages and follow me on Twitter!