Walking into the Zombies' show at Capitol Theatre this past Wednesday night, my primary concern was that they'd stick to the hits, delivering a setlist that was all peace, love and "Time of the Season," while skimping on the harpsichord-rich baroque pop that earned the iconic British Invasion band their cult status and endeared them to young fans decades after that aforementioned 1968 track helped define a generation.
But with key original members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone leading the current lineup — bassist Jim Rodford (who also played with the Kinks and Argent), drummer Steve Rodford and guitarist Tom Toomey — it was safe to assume we were in good hands.
Orlando group The Pauses warmed the crowd with a set of intricate tunes that were psychedelic, if at times incongruously synth-y given the headliner, and touched on original numbers along with a cover of Harry Nilsson's "The Moonbeam Song" before the Zombies took the stage.
The Baby Boomer-heavy crowd stood and applauded as the musicians made their entrance. Blunstone explained the setlist would be a sampling of the band's work throughout the decades, including songs they wrote that were made famous by other acts, lesser-known original material, trademark covers, and tracks they wrote after the original lineup disbanded. Some of the selections would be unexpected but, he claimed, "I can assure you we wrote or recorded it."
They opened with the 1965 B-side, "I Love You." Blunstone's vocals were still on-point over five decades later, if more polished with the years and applying a more generous use of vibrato.
The rest of the setlist touched on "I Want You Back Again," a swinging, jazz-inspired tune that earned some attention after Tom Petty covered it, and "Goin' Outta My Head," made famous by Little Anthony and the Imperials, "Can't Nobody Love You" Spot-on performances of "Tell her No," "You Really Got A Hold On Me" (another Zombies original someone else charted) and the standard "Bring it on Home," with stories and anecdotes delivered in between.
A few tracks off their most recent 2015 release (Still Got That Hunger) —"Moving On" and "Edge of the Rainbow" —seemed to fit right with the rest, and for "Tomorrow" — a song that finds Blunstone humming the final few bars of the Beatles' "Yesterday" — Blunstone shared the story behind it; he was told, under no circumstances, to include his hum in the final cut...until someone played it for and got the thumbs up from Sir Paul McCartney himself.
The night's highlight came via a handful of tunes from 1968 album Odessey and Oracle: "Care of Cell 44," which proved as energetic as ever (and served as one of the better showcases for the band's collective harmonic chops), followed the angly "This Will be Our Year" and "I Want Her She Wants Me." Argent served as lead vocalist on these, a reminder of the wealth of talent the Zombies has as a whole, and though "Time of the Season" came up (it is technically on that album), its set placement worked, and I imagine I wasn't the only one in the room who was happy they didn't save it for the encore.
Perhaps the show's weakest moment came from "New York," a newer tune about the band's first trip to the states. Maybe it was an off night for the song, but it came off as a bit pedestrian; Blunstone's belting "America, America" was the only near-cringeworthy moment of the night.
After the band slogged through "Caroline, Goodbye" and "Yesterday is Gone," they brought back the momentum with a long, rousing performance of Argent's proggy 1972 ode, "Hold Your Head Up."
(Cool side note: as he urged the crowd to sing along, Argent told us that, while most people think the chorus is "hold your head up, whoa!," it's actually "hold your head up, woman!")
The Zombies rounded out the night with one expected and one not-so-expected tune.
The first, as any casual fan might guess, was "She's Not There." Of course, they nailed.
The last (since there was no encore) was Argent's "God Gave Rock and Roll To You," a strong staging of a forgotten anthem despite its quasi-religious tone and distasteful Kiss/Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey connotations.
But, a few weak moments aside, Zombies delivered a performance that was as tight as it was enjoyable, and, from where we were sitting, it appeared like the band was having a good time up there, too.