Fresh from a series of dates in the US, The Zombies don’t so much shuffle as bound onto the north London stage tonight.
Right from the outset, it is clear to all in attendance this is going to be one of those exceptional nights that starts on one of singer Colin Blunstone’s characteristic high notes and just keeps on rising. All that roadworthy training – six shows a day at the Brooklyn Fox in their ’64/’65 Brit Invasion heyday – has stood them in good stead.
Few bands from the 1960s can say that they sound as good today as they did in their youth – the surprise for many is that The Zombies have actually improved with age (Blunstone and Rod Argent are both 70, while latter-day Zombie bassist Jim Rodford is 74). The St Albans five-piece may not have been as cool as their 60s peers or had the right haircuts, but their inventive songwriting and superlative musicianship has successfully and rightfully outlasted any passing fad.
Unlike their performances to their American audience, we don’t get a complete rendition of their 1968 baroque masterpiece Odessey And Oracle, performed by the surviving members of the original ’61-’68 line-up. Instead, what they do treat us to tonight is a career-spanning, double album length show that can only be described as a triumph, in terms of craftmanship, the band’s energy and the reaction of the crowd.
Opening with a volley of tracks from new album Still Got That Hunger, including the vigorous Moving On, they segue seamlessly into pre-Odessey… hits like Tell Her No. Argent’s 1972 single Hold Your Head Up is paced to perfection, with Rod Argent skilfully attacking the keyboards to howls of approval from the audience.
A minor carp is that they admittedly do tend to spin out the between-song stories, like eager schoolteachers wanting to interest the class in a subject. That said, you certainly can’t knock the quality of the anecdotes. Maybe Tomorrow, another song from the latest album which features a quote from The Beatles’ Yesterday, narrowly escaped being canned thanks to a last-minute intervention by Paul McCartney.
The selections from Odessey… itself include the upbeat Care Of Cell 44, A Rose For Emily (their answer to Eleanor Rigby) and This Will Be Our Year.
They encore with the haunting Summertime, one of the first songs they ever recorded, and the inspiration for the lines ‘What’s your name/ Who’s your daddy’ in Time Of The Season. Blunstone’s voice soars at the finish, and his arms are outstretched above the crowd, Rod Argent beside him beaming with joy.