Thursday, June 2, 2016

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout The Way They Rocked

The Zombies wrapped up their current U.S. tour at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL with a mix of hits, vintage rarities, and songs from their new album Still Got That Hunger. The high-powered performance confirmed just how much this iconic British Invasion band has always drawn inspiration from American rhythm and blues. Lead vocalist Colin Blunstone belted out the opening number “I Love You”—a Zombies original that was successfully covered by the American band People back in the 1960s—with so much power and soul it was immediately evident Zombies fans were in for a treat.

Keyboards player-vocalist Rod Argent occasionally took a turn on lead vocals, and the harmonies he and Blunstone created, often with guitarist Tom Toomey and bassist Jim Rodford joining in, were first rate. Renditions of The Miracles’ “You Really Got A Hold On Me” and Little Anthony And The Imperials' “I Think I’m Going Out Of My Head” were pulled off brilliantly. Drummer Steve Rodford didn’t sing but his driving beat played a key role in the band’s well-crafted approach.

The material from Still Got That Hunger had an authentic rhythm and blues feel, from the hard-hitting “Moving On” to a jazzy reworking of “I Want You Back Again,” a very early Zombies number that was recently covered by Tom Petty. “New York” is a tribute to the soul artists like Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone The Zombies discovered during their first trip to America back in the early 1960s. Rod Argent introduced the heartfelt “Maybe Tomorrow” by explaining how The Zombies needed to get special permission from Paul McCartney to use a line from The Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

The Zombies honored their Sgt. Pepper era masterpiece Odessey and Oracle by performing the appealing “I Want Her She Wants Me” and “This Could Be Our Year,” as well as an extended take on the classic “Time Of The Season” that was fueled by Argent’s adventurous keyboards playing. “Hold Your Head Up,” a major hit by his eponymous band in 1972, offered another showcase for Argent, and kudos to the From West Of The Pond Zombies Fan Club for providing several audience members with glow sticks to wave as the band powered its way through an energetic jam session. The early hits “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There” were also major highlights, and the evening ended with another Argent (the band) hit, the gospel/glam anthem “God Gave Rock And Roll To You.”

Finding Jeff Lescher and Jason Mosher from Green as the opening act was a pleasant surprise for those of us familiar with the Chicago-based band’s quirky power pop music. Any opening act might have been perceived as an inconvenience to fans waiting for The Zombies, but Lescher and Mosher wisely added cover versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dust” to their acoustic set, along with their own tunes like “Jimmy” and "Monique Monique.” Green will be doing a show with Material Reissue on June 17 at Wire in Berwyn. 

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