Shepherds Bush Empire, London
added: 10 Mar 2008
// gig date: 8 Mar 2008
reviewer: James Coplin
Tonight sees the Zombies for the third night in a row at the Empire. They are here, 40 years after it's release to perform live for the fist time the whole of the criminally ignored 'Odessey and Oracle' album.
This is the first time the whole band have played together for many years, however for the past few years there has been a touring band featuring 2 original members, Vocalist Colin Blunstone and songwriter / keyboard player /vocalist Rod Argent.
The set tonight is split into 2 parts. For the first half we get the touring band performing a mix of Zombies Classics and later Zombies related material featuring Blunstone or Argent or both. The set opens with a rip roaring version of an early Zombies track from the first album - 'I Love You' and it's immediately apparent that Colin Blunstone has lost none of his amazing vocal talent covering the full range of notes required in this song.....it's gonna be a good night!
What follows is a wholly eclectic mix of stuff, some later perfunctory Blunstonem / Argent collaborations, and some great Argent tracks, namely the rock n roll of 'Keep on Rolling' and the 7 minute opus of 'Hold your Head Up' ....oh, and a completely unnecessary cover of 'What becomes of the Broken Hearted'. But what stands out from this first half performance is the arrival of a string section to accompany Colin Blunstone on 3 tracks from his 1971 solo album 'One Year' (apparently so called as thats the amount of time it took to complete). The Musicians performing 'Her Song', 'Misty Roses' and the Beautiful 'Say you don't Mind' provide a perfect showcase for his delicate yet haunting vocals.
The interval is over and you can almost cut the anticipation in the air with a knife. The guys re-take the stage, this time with previously absent Zombies, bassist + songwriter Chris White and Drummer Hugh Grundy. Original guitarist Paul Atkinson passed away in 2004 so Keith Airey continues on the lead.
The band are playing the whole album in order tonight and the whole place is in anticipation of the opening chords of 'Care of Cell 64'. Everything sounds perfect. The instruments (apparently they're using original 60's gear to recreate the sound) The harmonies (with the help of a couple of backing singers) and Blunstones voice, which still sounds like he's a fresh faced 20 year old. The theme of this song still seems bizarre 40 years on - a guy writing to his girl whos banged up in prison!
The Eleanor Rigby-esque 'Rose for Emily' sounds as poignant as ever and Blunstone still sounds genuinely lovelorn on 'Maybe after he's gone' (......she'll come back,love me again'...) and the harmonies are spot on.
Each song fails to disappoint in the fact the band manage to completely recreate the magic captured on this classic album and the live versions seem to give an extra dimension to songs like 'Changes' and 'Hung up on a Dream'
The opening piano bars of 'This will be our Year' are brought to life and still manage to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. Nearing the end of the set / album we have the only song on which Chris White takes the vocals. The man himself has an interest in British war history and 'Butchers Tale' is a haunting lament of the horrors witnessed by a WW1 soldier. Chris' only accompaniment on this track is by Rod Argent on the Harmonium, which is basically a massive scary looking portable gothic church organ. Argent faces away from the audience to play and looks like a curly haired Vincent Price hammering at the keyboard! The song is stunning though and White gets a standing ovation.
Next up is 'Friends of mine' a song which lists names of couples the band knew at the time, some of which (Argent informs us ) are in the audience tonight, most are split up, some are dead and one is onstage! - the jobbing bass player.
Finally, we hear the album closer and the one song which anyone who doesn't own this album will certainly know, the absolute classic 'Time of the Season'. Argent's magnificent keyboard skills and Blunstones vocals are superb on this track and it's a fitting end to an historic night. Well almost anyway. Before the band head off into the twilight we get an airing of their only other 2 hits 'Tell her No and the awesome 'She's not There '.
Odessey and Oracle was all but ignored on it's release (by which point the band had split up). Born to a world that wasn't quite ready for it. Over the years though it's gained it's much deserved critical acclaim and stands up there next to 'Pet Sounds' and 'Sgt Pepper' as one of the best albums of the Psychedelic era.
If you don't own it already,do yourself a favour and give it a listen. (Get the German import CD as you get loads of extra tracks on it!)
I feel privileged tonight having witnessed this faultless performance of a classic record.
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