Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Zombies bring magic to a global audience via performance from Abbey Road Studios

The Zombies

Where: Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios in London

When: Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021

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Review by Robert Kinsler

Photography by Jules Annan

The Zombies took advantage of every single moment of their only public performance of the year on Sept. 18, 2021 to celebrate a 60-year legacy that continues to grow and thrill fans across the globe.

The Zombies, from left, are keyboardist Rod Argent, bassist Søren Koch,
singer Colin Blunstone, drummer Steve Rodford and guitarist Tom Toomey.

It is hard to believe that the British band 
 whose inception dates back to a jam held in St. Albans, England in 1961 — continues to be among today's most exciting rock groups. The growing parade of the band's admirers includes everyone from Paul Weller and the late Tom Petty to Paramore singer Hayley WilliamsArcade Fire and Susanna Hoffs (the famed Bangles singer-guitarist famously inducted the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019). At the worldwide livestream staged in Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios on Sept. 18, the quintet thrilled with a mix of enduring classics, artful covers, deep cuts as well as the live premiere of new songs set to be included on an as-of-yet untitled album likely to be released in 2022.

Colin Blunstone at Abbey Road Studios on Sept. 18.

Led by founding members Rod Argent (keyboards, vocals) and Colin Blunstone (lead vocals), the group also includes guitarist-backing vocalist Tom Toomey, drummer Steve Rodford and bassist-backing vocalist S
øren Koch. The five members have a strong chemistry and together displayed top-tier musicianship and resplendent harmonies to bring the Zombies signature masterful style blending classic rock, baroque pop, jazz and blues to life throughout their 90-minute livestream. Blunstone's vocals defy time, and his soaring tenor remains a true wonder.

Rod Argent performing on Sept. 18, 2021.

Opening with a luminous version of "Moving On," the band's performance was equaled by the fantastic high-resolution visuals and great sound provided via the livestream. The band's 1965 single "I Want You Back Again" followed, this rendition a nod to the version covered by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers featured on their The Live Anthology released in 2009. Argent's wistful keyboard solo and Blunstone's soaring tenor bolstered the classic.

The jazzy "Edge of the Rainbow," driving "I Love You" and rocking cover of Denny Laine's "Say You Don't Mind" were other early standouts. 

From left, Søren Koch and Tom Toomey.
The Zombies then premiered several new songs, bringing the Q Strings quartet to the stage to further boost the new selections. The first of the songs, a beautiful chamber pop gem titled "Different Game," featured Argent playing a Mellotron; the song ended with the strings sans the rest of the group in a beautiful instrumental section. The lovely "You Could Be My Love" followed, bolstered by the strings and Argent's playing on a grand piano. A version of "I Want To Fly" also benefitted from the work of the quartet (sisters Laura, Ellie and Amy Stanford, and Jess Cox).

Throughout the event, Argent and Blunstone often shared interesting insights into the background of the creation or recording of their songs. For example, Blunstone noted that while in the studio recording "Tell Her No" around Christmas in 1964 they learned that they had just scored their first number 1 hit in America ("She's Not There"). 

They then performed a four-song set of tracks from their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle, noting that when they entered Abbey Road Studios to begin work on the LP in June 1967 they literally were there right after The Beatles completed work on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Zombies were able to use some of the same instruments used by the Fab Four on their sessions.

A divine "Care of Cell 44," joyful "This Will Be Our Year" and melodic "I Want Her She Wants Me" were performed first, with the band's beloved "Time of the Season" expanded with an extended solo by Argent. 

From left, Rod Argent, Søren Koch and Tom Toomey.
The winning rock original "Merry Go Round" and debut performance of the reflective "Run Away (For All My Life)" followed.

A marathon-length version of Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" was dedicated to Jim Rodford (the long-time bassist of the Zombies and former member of Argent and the Kinks died in January 2018). 

The main set ended with a sweeping take on "She's Not There" complete with Argent and Toomey dueling on their instruments before Steve Rodford and Koch were featured in a rhythm section break-out.  Before leaving the studio, a tender version of "The Way I Feel Inside" focusing on Blunstone's vocals and Argent's skillful work on the grand piano provided the perfect close to the latest chapter in the Zombies' singular journey.  

The Zombies' setlist at Abbey Road Studios on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021

Drummer Steve Rodford of The Zombies.

Moving On

I Want You Back Again

Edge of the Rainbow

I Love You

Say You Don't Mind (Denny Laine cover)

Different Game (live debut, with string quartet)

You Could Be My Love (live debut with string quartet)

I Want To Fly (with string quartet)

Tell Her No

Care of Cell 44

This Will Be Our Year

I Want Her She Wants Me

Time of the Season

Merry Go Round

Run Away (For All My Life)  (live debut)

Hold Your Head Up (Argent cover)

She's Not There

The Way I Feel Inside

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