Several decades’ worth of musical currents converged at B.B. King’s when Brit-pop legends The Zombies headlined there last Wednesday night. Invisible threads connected musical eras throughout the evening, from the guitar hammer-ons and whammy-bar pyrotechnics that pumped heavy-metal blood into the 40-year-old “She’s Not There” to the steamy Stax-and-Stones redux of twentysomething opening act Ellis Hooks. In an intergenerational moment, guitarist Steve Cropper took the stage, backing the young shouter on songs Cropper wrote with Otis Redding, while drummer Billy Block rode his kit like Charlie Watts.
Best of all, performing under The Zombies name for the first time in over three decades, singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist and composer Rod Argent credibly re-created highlights from their mercurial mid-’60s career. They also played new songs from a forthcoming album, as well as items from Blunstone’s solo career and Argent’s eponymous ’70s band. They eschewed most of The Zombies’ Merseybeat-styled ravers in favor of their more progressive material, including half of the sublime Odessey and Oracle LP. As Argent noted from the stage, the band’s current tour is the first to feature those songs, a fact that lent their performance an even more magical air.
Though gabbing through the dainty “A Rose for Emily,” the crowd was not only appreciative but also forgiving when Blunstone’s otherwise well-modulated voice occasionally faltered. With humility and charm, the singer expressed his delight to be in music’s most famous city. “We can’t believe we’re in Nashville,” he said. “We’re just these little British chaps.” Indeed, there likely was more collective ego to be found in the audience, where industry types, ranging from suits to longish-hairs, mingled with pop Anglophiles who sopped up every note.
There certainly was plenty to absorb. Argent’s organ and electric piano leads maintained the spirit of the vintage recordings yet bristled with in-the-moment energy, while a rhythm section consisting of former Argent (and Kinks) bassist Jim Rodford and his son Steve on drums propelled the set, often at tempos slightly more brisk than the original ones. The presence of the elder Rodford was especially felt on the pulsing bass line of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up,” which even had the club’s servers rocking out.
Rather than milking crowd response for The Zombies’ best-known numbers, Argent matter-of-factly introduced “Tell Her No” and, to wrap the set, “She’s Not There.” When they did return to the stage, they played more material from Argent’s ’70s band, on which Blunstone was a ringer for Russ Ballard on the vocal parts. Bringing things full circle, they ended with Gershwin’s “Summertime,” the first song that Argent and Blunstone ever cut, and a fitting summation of the cyclical movement of time and the seasons.
If they stop filming in Nashville, I stop watching.
Juliette Barnes decides to run for President – and wins! Can the first…
yeah I'm glad there is a season two only so I can read your recaps.
your recaps are so much more entertaining than the actual show, thanks for the laughs.
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