The Zombies, Back From the Undead and Keeping Things Lively

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's hard to imagine a more gracious band than the Zombies. Several times during their thrilling, inspired performance Tuesday night at the Birchmere, they stopped the show to thank the audience not for the applause and the several standing ovations but just for being there in the first place.

It's amazing the Zombies were there as well. The English five-piece ensemble recorded its first song, the pop standard "She's Not There," in 1964 and the hit "Tell Her No" in 1965. The band broke up in 1967, two years before "Time of the Season" became a radio staple.

An astounding four decades later, singer-keyboard player Rod Argent and vocalist Colin Blunstone were in top form, seemingly as energized by the playlist as the crowd. Their songs defied their ages, with Argent unfurling jazz-based solos on organ and piano -- he particularly shredded "Season's" melody with mad psychedelic glissandos -- and Keith Airey imparting sparks on lead guitar. The father-son bassist-drummer duo of Jim and Steve Rodford provided a dynamic rhythmic backbone.

Blunstone was a bit shouty on the anthems -- what else can you do during "Hold Your Head Up," a hit for Argent's eponymous arena-rock band? -- but was able to showcase his affable tenor on others, including a new ballad, "Any Other Way," that kept to the Zombies tradition: hooky melody, catchy beat, keening harmonies and a sense of timelessness.

-- Buzz McClain

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