The Zombies Live In London

An acoustic musical journey live from one of London's most dramatic venues.

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You’ve got to admire the audacity: The Zombies, the quintessence of late-60s proto-prog baroque pop, doing a stripped-down, piano-and-vocals-only show.

This is The Zombies Unplugged – Rod Argent at the piano and Colin Blunstone on surprisingly potent breathy vocals. It’s all very sparse and intimate, with a reverent atmosphere – not surprising, considering the venue. “The rest of the band didn’t turn up,” jokes Blunstone.

There’s a lot of banter tonight from the pair. Blunstone explains that this will be “a musical journey” of the last 50 years, from 1964 – the year of the release of She’s Not There – to the present, with tracks from their forthcoming album. They play Tell Her No, one of their big US hits, with its nods to Merseybeat and Burt Bacharach. There’s a vast difference in terms of compositional complexity between that and new song Edge Of The Rainbow, with its simple bluesy progressions.

Vastly more ornate is A Rose For Emily from Odessey And Oracle, followed by This Will Be Our Year, written by bassist Chris White and, according to Blunstone, a favourite of Tiger Woods (it was used for a Nike Father’s Day commercial in the States that starred the golfer).

Argent laughs that Time Of The Season, “a song about unconditional love”, was recorded in the studio in an atmosphere of rising tension between him and Blunstone. A string quartet arrives for tracks from Blunstone’s Argent-produced 1971 solo debut, _One Yea_r: first Misty Roses, then a fabulous rendition of Denny Laine’s Say You Don’t Mind. It might not be prog in terms of technoflash, but it is if you count ambition and aching grandeur.

It’s on this gorgeous chamber pop that the gig reaches a florid musical and emotional peak. Well, this, and I Don’t Believe In Miracles, which elicits the biggest cheers of the night, along with She’s Not There and Old And Wise, Eric Woolfson’s 1982 song for The Alan Parsons Project. The latter is impossibly moving and poignant, especially its lyric: ‘There are shadows approaching me/And to those I left behind…’

They may be in the autumn of their years, and the casualties are mounting, but the sun hasn’t set on The Zombies yet.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.