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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

City Winery's night of the living Zombies

The Zombie's, with the late Jim Rodford on bass, perform Argent's classic "God Gave Rock and Roll to You"

Last year’s glorious 50th anniversary tour of Odessey and Oracle behind them—and fresh off their second long-belated nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame--The Zombies are back with a more relaxed but no less rocky show touching all their career bases, and at the second of three shows Wednesday night at City Winery, assuaging what normally might have been an unnerving audience reaction to the club’s introductory announcement “The Zombies are in the house!”

For this was an all-out fun set led by the two legendary originals Colin Blunstone, vocalist extraordinaire, and keyboard virtuoso/vocalist Rod Argent, whose huge 1972 “Hold Your Head Up” pop hit with his progressive rock band Argent was a high point.

Blunstone, as ever, seemed to have the most fun, hand signaling the audience to join in on the “no-no-no” chorus of The Zombies’ second Top 10 U.S. hit “Tell Her No” (1965). But the show began with relative obscurities--Bo Diddley’s “Road Runner,” which appeared on The Zombies’ first U.K. album Begin Here, and “The Look of Love,” their cover of their contemporary Dusty Springfield’s hit, which they recorded live on a BBC special back in the day.

From here the group mixed in gems from their mighty fine and aptly titled 2015 album Still Got That Hunger (Blunstone’s vocal on the bluesy “Edge of the Rainbow” was another high point) with a few more earlier ones, including the Miracles/Sam Cooke pairing of “You Really Got a Hold On Me” and “Bring It On Home to Me” from their 1965 U.S. debut album The Zombies and “I Love You,’ originally a B-side of their minor 1965 U.S. hit “Whenever You’re Ready,” but a big cover hit in 1968 for People!

“Were we jealous?” asked Blunstone, merrily answering himself with a resounding “Yes!”--then enjoying a last laugh via the recent usage of THe Zombies’ original in a “Got Milk” commercial.

Blunstone, as Argent related, had facilitated their renewal as The Zombies following six gigs together “for old times’ sake” in late 1999, over 30 years after the group’s breakup in 1967—a year before Odessey and Oracle’s post-breakup release. Now a recognized landmark, that album, noted Argent, continues to sell more than it did then, and was celebrated at the Winery by a four-song “mini-set”: “Care of Cell 44,” “This Will Be Our Year,” “I Want Her, She Wants Me,” and of course, the immortal hit “Time of the Season.”

“Hold Your Head Up” featured Argent’s extended keyboard break, which included quotes from Booker T. & the M.G.’s 1962 instrumental hit “Green Onions” and Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”--itself an unlikely 1972 instrumental hit by Apollo 100; it also contained Argent’s traditional plea for the sold-out crowd to sing along on the chorus correctly, that is, “Hold your head up, woman” and not “Hold your head up, whoa.” The set then ended with The Zombies’ signature first hit “She’s Not There” (1964), Argent here throwing in a quote from Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin.’”

Prior to the encore, Blunstone saluted late Zombies bassist Jim Rodford, who died tragically in January (Rodford’s son Steve remains the band’s drummer, with Danish bass player Soren Koch, a huge Zombies fan, proving an excellent replacement next to veteran Zombies guitarist Tom Toomey). In a fitting tribute to the perseverance of the band--as well as a joyous celebration of Rodford--Blunstone then summoned the backstage crew (including fine opening act Bruce Sudano) to sing along on one of rock’s great spirituals: Argent’s 1973 song and future Kiss hit cover “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.”



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