The Zombies had not played their song “I Want You Back Again” for a while but then they heard Tom Petty cover it.
The band then recalled what a good song it was, and they determined that they should revisit it in their live sets. This led them to record a new version of the song for their latest album, Still Got That Hunger, released Friday, Oct. 9, via Cherry Red Records.
“If it is good enough for Tom Petty, it is good enough for The Zombies,” quipped Colin Blunstone before a performance of the song at the Lincoln Theatre in DC on Thursday night. The band then launched into their new rendition of “I Want You Back Again,” a single the original band first released in 1965.
Colin sings very soulfully on the song, dedicated to a woman who should return to the lonely narrator. The Zombies cofounder Rod Argent plays some lonely blues piano and he spearheads a rather lovely musical interlude early in the song. Rod is a keyboard maestro who really gets into the zone during moments like that interlude, and it’s a pleasure to watch him behind the piano most of all.
Watch The Zombies perform “I Want You Back Again” live at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin during SXSW 2013 on March 16, 2013:
In addition to “I Want You Back Again,” The Zombies played several songs like “Moving On” and “Edge of The Rainbow” from their new album, which they offered for sale in an autographed edition at the show. The very full house at the Lincoln appreciated the new songs quite a bit, and cheered as mightily on occasion as they did for the ’60s songs. In fact, the new songs certainly have a sound and a character that can be attributed wholeheartedly to The Zombies, and they fit seamlessly into the better parts of the band’s catalog.
The Zombies today consist of founders Colin and Rod along with bassist Jim Rodford, drummer Steve Rodford (Jim’s son!), and guitarist Tom Toomey. This lineup took the opportunity to perform songs from their new album while at the Lincoln, but the main event was a 50th anniversary performance of The Zombies’ most famous album Odessey and Oracle, hailed by many as one of the greatest records of all time. (Colin acknowledged it was more of a 47th anniversary performance, but he joked he still wanted to be able to walk onto stage under his own power for the performance, hence the jumpstart of a few years.)
To mark the occasion, The Zombies divided the show into two parts, performing Odessey and Oracle in its entirety for the second part — and with great expectations doing so with the surviving classic lineup of The Zombies. In the second set, The Zombies of today were joined by classic bassist Chris White, one of the chief songwriters of the original band, and classic drummer Hugh Grundy. (Classic guitarist Paul Atkinson passed away in 2004.)
Before they revisit Odessey and Oracle, the current lineup of The Zombies tackle a few “must-hear” songs including “Hold Your Head Up,” originally recorded by Argent, the self-named band Rod Argent started after The Zombies. The rollicking rock and roll song was a hit with the audience, as always. Rod explained that Chris White actually wrote the song, although many people mistakenly believe that he did, and that Chris stayed active a producer and a writer, working with his old friend and others, after he originally stopped performing with The Zombies.
Chris is an interesting fellow, and the crowd gets to see that personally when the classic lineup of The Zombies take the stage for the second set of the night.
The Zombies kick off their performance of their seminal album with its first song, following the track listing for the 12 tunes in order. Odessey and Oracle begins with the song “Care of Cell 44,” a song about coming home as a narrator writes to a loved one in prison.
The song was written by Rod, and features spritely, upbeat piano, which really underscores the happy thoughts intended by the song — the sweetness of reunion. Colin does a lovely job of expressing the hopefulness and optimism of the reunion with a gentle voice. Although Rod’s piano is the predominant instrument in the song, drummer Steve adds structure with some pleasant rolling drums.
Watch The Zombies perform “Care of Cell 44” at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin during SXSW 2013 from March 13, 2013, on YouTube:
One of the most interesting songs performed during the second set was Chris’ “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914),” which features Chris on vocals and Rod supporting him on harmonium.
The song is a lonely tale of a former butcher on the frontlines in World War I, and it is powerful and affecting if a bit stark. The harmonium certainly gives the song the aura of ‘60s songs from The Zombies’ UK contemporaries.
Watch Rod and Chris perform “Butcher’s Tale” in 2014 on YouTube (exact date and location unknown):
The Zombies close out the second set, of course, with a rousing rendition of the last track on the album, and still their most famous song, “Time of the Season.” They knock it out of the park. While the audience is going wild for the song, I’m thinking with its call for “the time of the season for loving,” and its slightly menacing pickup lines – “Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?” – the song for many wraps up an entire musical oeuvre at the crossroads of psychedelic rock and chamber pop into one single number. The big performance by the combined legacy and current lineups of The Zombies packed a tremendous punch, and it was the sort of thing that you might see only once in a lifetime.
The Zombies, in its combined supergroup form, close out the show with a reprise of “She’s Not There,” the jazzy hit from the group’s debut album Begin Here.
Watch the original lineup of The Zombies perform “She’s Not There” on television in 1965:
The Zombies continue their tour in Ridgefield, Conn., on Tuesday, and continue across the United States to end their current US tour at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Oct. 27. Both incarnations of the band are in fine form, and they are masterful musicians who will thoroughly entertain you with songs old and new. Make a big occasion of it and go see them when they play near you. You absolutely won’t regret it.