Review: In Clearwater, The Zombies play brand new music and salute old tunes

God gave rock and roll to us.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOSH BRADLEY
Photo by Josh Bradley
Sixty years ago, if you had told any member of British rock group The Zombies that they’d still be going in 2022, they would have called you crazy.

Following the original flop of Odessey & Oracle—the band’s 1968 magnum opus—everyone decided to call it quits, until reconvening on and off, starting in the late-‘80s. Flash forward to the 21st century, and original members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone still defy all odds, alongside guitarist Tom Toomey, drummer Steve Rodford, and bassist Søren Koch. Rodford’s father Jim, a later member of The Kinks, played with The Zombies from 2001 until his 2018 death, and like the other original members of the band—most of whom are still alive—he has been there in spirit ever since.

Just before 9 p.m on Tuesday night, Marvelous Marvin from 106.3 WGUL-FM came onstage to introduce the old Brits, and as soon as everybody was situated, Argent took the mic to explain what was about to go down. You know, “It’s great to be back onstage, COVID-19 was a very hard time, yada yada yada.” Then, came mention of the impending Zombies album, the band’s first since 2015’s Still Got That Hunger. He promised that the Clearwater would be treated to new and unreleased tunes, one of which had never been played onstage before Tuesday night.

Once the show kicked off with “Moving On,” Blunstone, clad in a yellow and gray scarf, black coat, and gray V-neck, took the mic to introduce “I Want You Back Again,” which was recently re-recorded after the guys heard a live recording of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playing an astounding version of the song at the Fillmore in 1997. “To be absolutely honest, I think Rod and I forgot about this tune,” he admitted.

click to enlarge Colin Blunstone - PHOTO BY JOSH BRADLEY
Photo by Josh Bradley
Colin Blunstone
At first, it felt like this was going to be an evening for the Zombies’ die-hard fans. Deep cuts, new material, and B-sides. That is, until the addition of “I Love You” opened for the never-before-played song. A title couldn’t be found, but I’m almost certain that it was played in the key of C#. Clearwater was also gifted the brand-new “You Could Be My Love,” a piano ballad that has only been played a few times beforehand.

The new music had been showcased, and now, it was all hands on deck. “Tell Her No” was the first singalong of the night, and “Old and Wise,” an Alan Parsons song that Blunstone originally sang on, was introduced with a story about how the Zombies singer once had to fly to New York to sing for a Noxzema commercial, and was told to sing in an American accent. “I didn’t know about this, by the way,” Argent interrupted. “Money in my pocket, bye!” Blunstone concluded.

Then came the part of the evening that so many had come for: The Odessey & Oracle section. Five would salute the album, starting with “Care of Cell 44.” The record’s sophomore track, “A Rose For Emily,” was a great touch, as was the hopeful “This Will Be Our Year" and the Argent-sung “I Want Her, She Wants Me.” O&O set closer “Time of the Season” featured a three-minute solo from Argent that received the standing ovation it deserved.

But just because the section featuring songs from The Zombies’ ultimate masterpiece passed didn’t mean that the old guys were done quite yet.

Another new song, “Merry Go Round,” popped in, and features the “life’s a merry-go-round” lyric that inspired the current tour's name. Later, Argent made it blatantly clear that the chorus to “Hold Your Head Up” is “hold your head up, woman,” not “whoa.” His instructions for what turned out to be the best received song of the evening worked, because after a seven-minute instrumental, there was nary a voice in the less-than-sold-out crowd not on their feet, shouting the song’s title over the music. Once that burst of energy was through, “She’s Not There” wrapped up the main set, and closing up entirely was an original-members-only performance of “The Way I Feel Inside.”

click to enlarge Bruce Sudano (right) - PHOTO BY JOSH BRADLEY
Photo by Josh Bradley
Bruce Sudano (right)
There’s no doubt that The Zombies are more famous now than they were in their prime. The guys even had Donna Summer’s widow, Bruce Sudano, open the show. He basically told his life story through song, “Springsteen On Broadway” style. Included were a few that he wrote for Tommy James and the Shondells, and the late disco star’s smash hit “Bad Girls.” Sudano even managed to sell bobbleheads of himself at the merchandise table. Go figure.

Come to think of it, why weren’t The Zombies doing that? I’d love a little Rod Argent bobblehead for my desk.