The Zombies closed the Bluesville stage Tuesday night with a 75-minute set that stole the hearts of listeners and brought back an enormously endearing wave of nostalgia in a combination of mega-hits, covers, and career off-shoot material. Even after half a century, the songs still sound as crisp and golden as ever and were performed immaculately by original band members, Colin Blunstone (lead vocals) and Rod Argent (keys, vocals), as well as former Argent and Kinks bassist, Jim Rodford, his son Steve Rodford (drums), and acclaimed session player Tom Toomey (guitar). Tucked inside the Bluesville tent, well insulated away from American country sensation Jake Owen on the City Stage, the band took us on a journey through some of the most amazing music in rock history.
The band opened with its 1965 hit, “I Love You”, and immediately, its jangly minor-chorded chugging melody, with a tinge of psychedelic rock, and Blunstone’s clean higher-register vocals, brought back the band’s signature sound which made them internationally famous in the 1960’s. Many of their songs went on to be covered by other artists, including Tom Petty, whose version of “I Want You Back Again” on his Live Anthology album (2009) was given a bluesier, rockier injection. Argent went on to introduce the song as “a Zombies cover of a Tom Petty cover”. I enjoyed its jazzy rock groove that really started to cook between bassist Jim Rodford and Argent, during his keyboard solo.
The Zombies parted ways in 1967 immediately following the completion of their iconic masterpiece, “Odessey and Oracle” album, which had seen many mishaps and challenges. The odd reunion concert would occur but a complete re-joining of forces began to take place between Argent and Blunstone in the late 90’s that would lead to writing fresh songs. By 2004, the two had returned to performing and recording under their past moniker, The Zombies, once again. “We can energize ourselves by creating and recording our own music again” said Argent. “We came out with our new album “Still Got That Hunger” in 2015, and I got a call from Billboard who told us that for the first time in 50 years, we’ve got a song in the top 100.” The band proceeded with two of the album’s cuts, “Edge of the Rainbow” and “Moving On”, which had a soulful rock feel, and gorgeous vocal three part harmonies.
After all these years, The Zombies have returned with a vengeance to show us that like the music they created, the spirit of rock will always remain timeless.
During the show, songs from Odessey and Oracle were highlighted, including “Care of Cell 44”, a song that Dave Grohl says “changed his life”, and my absolute fave, “Time of the Season”. Another huge highlight of the evening came with an Argent classic, “Hold Your Head Up”, which built into monstrous proportions during Argent’s keyboard solo in a version that went on deliciously for at least 15 minutes. The crowd chimed in on the chorus, “Hold your head up, woman”, which I was quite surprised (and delighted) to learn, are the song’s actual lyrics. The grand finale came with their very first hit, “She’s Not There”, and its cool, psychedelic pop, jazz melody. I was impressed by Blunstone’s voice, which was still very much intact throughout the song’s challenging vocal melody line. The signature jazzy organ and rocking blues guitar solos also displayed their wealth of musical craftsmanship, and their ability to make these songs sound even better today. By the song’s end, the audience embraced the band with a roar of applause and a show of love that was overwhelming in its heartfelt vibe. After all these years, The Zombies have returned with a vengeance to show us that like the music they created, the spirit of rock will always remain timeless.
RBC Bluesfest runs from July 6–16, 2017 at LeBreton Flats. Visit ottawabluesfest.com for the lineup and schedule. Keep checking back for more Apt613 Bluesfest coverage and follow us on Instagram for the latest photos.