Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zombies walk the Earth!

If Zombies are lifeless creatures, existing trance-like in a state of limbo, then it has to be the most inappropriate name for the band started 50-years ago by Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White and Hugh Gundy. These Zombies have the essential life force in them, not only performing at the highest standard but still producing fresh-sounding new material.

I well remember Saturday shopping expeditions forty-five year ago, and the excitement of finding Zombies singles for 6d – which was about all I could then afford out of my weekly pocket money. Fortunately, for me if not for the band, they were never very popular and their singles ended up (along with Pink Floyd’s early offerings, believe it or not) in the Woolworth ‘deleted and remainders’ bin. Lucky me; those singles are now worth about £40 apiece and the legendary original ‘Odessy and Oracle’ (which I bought full price at the then enormous price of 32s 6d) over £400!

I never saw them live in that early incarnation. They disbanded before I was old enough to be allowed by my parents to go to a gig. I never imagined that they’d still be around when I had money in my pockets, and was well old enough to choose how late I stay out!

Going to a Zombies show now is rather like going to one of the package tours that they’d have themselves taken part in during the early 60s. In those days the band would have been one amongst many, sandwiched between a couple of other ‘groups’, each playing their three of four most well-known numbers. Now with 50-years of material, various off-shoots and solo careers, this set-up has come full circle and provide the complete package themselves with career highlights and hits from The Zombies, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent, and the 70s progressive band Argent. Separate acts but all connected by an unseen umbilical cord to the original Zombies.

Highlights of their 50th year anniversary show at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire included Zombies numbers like ‘Sticks n Stones’, ‘Tell her No’ and half a dozen from the aforesaid ’lost’ classic, 'Odessey and Oracle'. The four remaining original members of the band performed together for the latter. Half a dozen tracks from their latest CD, 'Breath in, Breath out' fitted seemlessly into the set. Blunstone contributed numbers from his solo career; ‘What becomes of the Broken Hearted’ and ‘I don’t Believe in Miracles’ were reminders of what a truly great voice he has. We were also reminded of just how good Argent were with an extended version of ‘Hold Your Head High’ and ‘God gave Rock’n’ Roll to you’, with the legendary Jim Rodford (Kinks) from the original band on bass.

Inevitably, it was everyone on stage for the most famed of Zombies numbers, ‘She’s Not There’. No one in the audience minded that they played it twice as an encore. What a night. What a band. What a history.

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