The Zombies returned to New York City in earnest on Friday night to an exultant audience.
Playing a two-set show in front of a sold out New York Society for Ethical Culture crowd, the band reverted to nostalgic, satisfying 1960s form, and proved that they still possess the songwriting and performing chops responsible for their masterpiece 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle, enduring the test of time. The tour had been promoted around the fact that The Zombies would be playing that album in its entirety during each concert.
Original Zombies Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone played two sets with two different groups of musicians. The first set consisted of new material from the band’s 2015 album, Still Got That Hunger, and a few covers of beloved Zombies-era classics, mixed in with non-Odessey and Oracle Zombies hits including “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There.” The band included one-time Kinks guitarist Jim Rodford on bass, his son Steve Rodford on drums, and the newest Zombie, Tom Toomey, on guitar.
Taking pause between such new Zombies songs as the Broadway-inflected “New York" and the piano-driven “Maybe Tomorrow,” Blunstone and Argent shared historical tidbits about the original lineup as well as the inspiration for tracks on Still Got That Hunger. Blunstone’s anecdote about a blessing from Paul McCartney for a track on the new album had the crowd enchanted.
The set also paid tribute to the band members’ successful solo careers. The band played Argent's 1972 hit, “Hold Your Head Up,” and Blunstone’s 1971 breakup tune, “Caroline Goodbye.”
Pleasing the crowd with soulful renditions of “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Bring It on Home to Me,” the band rattled the bones of the old theater (a converted church space) and had the pew-seated crowd revved and ready for what would prove to be a stunning performance of Odessey and Oracle.
After a 30 minute intermission, the band returned to the stage, this time in the company of Hugh Grundy on drums and Chris White on bass. The only other Zombie involved with recording Odessey and Oracle was guitarist Paul Atkinson, who sadly died in 2004 due to liver and kidney disease.
With the help of Grundy and White, it became apparent that the magic was still there, some 50 years after the release of Odessey and Oracle. The emotional weight of “Care of Cell 44” set the tone for the set, and the band was off and running.
Argent attacked keyboard solos with the zeal of a much younger man, while Blunstone’s vocals were flexible and beyond capable. The band was in true sync, combining for haunting and sunny harmonies, and encouraging the crowd’s applause for their bandmate’s solos.
A highlight of the set came in the form of a sullen performance of “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” which White and Argent combined on. Argent played a small pump organ which he said had been found in the theater and White played a minimal, eerily quiet performance, doing total justice to a delicate track which describes the horrors of World War One.
As the band progressed through side two of the album, the enthusiasm of the crowd increased. Standing ovations followed nearly every song, culminating with a rousing, fun performance of the band’s biggest hit in America, “Time of the Season.”
After a heartfelt thank you from Argent and an individual ovation for each band member, the performers from both sets reprised “She’s not There,” closing the evening.
Those on hand, in the unique venue, in the world’s most well-known city, milled out, knowing they’d seen a very special performance.