Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Zombies @ Jazz Cafe, London

6 October 2009

It’s been almost 10 years since Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent reunited and took to the stage once again as The Zombies. Time has been kind.

Together with their touring band – the legend that is Jim Rodford ( The Kinks, The Animals) on bass, his son Steve Rodford on drums and Keith Airey on guitar – they continue to please, excite and mesmerise.

Back in the day, Colin’s sheepish and understated stage presence only made his voice more beautiful. Today, that voice is still sweet, with its achingly gorgeous breathy tones leaving the audience in awe.

He is, however, much more comfortable on stage, and somehow this newfound confidence causes him to lose a little of his mystery. Rod, The Zombies’ main songwriter along with original bass player Chris White and founder of Argent, has always been a natural in the limelight. His love and passion for what he does shines through with every Hammond note he plays and every shake of his wispy locks. He’s always a pleasure to watch.

To mark the start of their latest tour, which begins with two nights in the Jazz Caf, Colin and Rod take to the stage solo and, without so much as a word to their audience, play a collection of wonderful acoustic numbers including Sanctuary and I Don’t Believe In Miracles. For fans of Colin’s solo work or the quieter moments of Odessey And Oracle, this will inevitably be a highlight; Colin’s soothing voice with nothing but Rod’s perfect playing for accompaniment.

That’s not to say there isn’t a touch of magic with the band too. Rod is a great bass player. Steve too is an accomplished drummer, although a few spectacular out of the norm moments would’ve been welcome. Keith Airey on the other hand is the thorn in the side of this superb band. His widdly solos ruin the wonders of these songs. They don’t fit, and the sound’s all wrong. Worse, Airey’s stage presence is simply off-putting.

It’s the Airey-minimal songs that bring tears to eyes. A Rose For Emily, Care Of Cell 44, Say You Don’t Mind… everything that made them great remains and the performance is a spine-tingling tribute to one of the best albums of all time – and one of the best voices.

Even the Argent classics, Pleasure, Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You (yes, penned by this very man and not Kiss at all) have their place. The audience love it.

There were a few oldies new to the set list for this tour. I Must Move in particular was superb and performed with just as much spark and quality as the original.

And another new thing for this show? Airey’s amp blows up on stage, leaving him unable to play for a few songs. YES! In a very strange moment, Airey, Jim and Rod tell a few jokes. Airey’s get no reaction. Jim’s were brilliant and Rod, absolutely dying to tell his hilarious balloon-based tale, got cheers. Says it all.

The touring band is no Oddessy And Oracle revival; there’s no Chris White, Butcher’s Tale or Hung Up On A Dream and no Paul Weller in the audience. But if you love The Zombies and have yet to see them, now is the time. At least till Airey’s amp gets fixed.

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The Zombies @ Jazz Cafe, London