The Zombies Live at Thalia Hall Chicago
It’s been covered by the Dave Matthews Band, The Guess Who and sampled by Eminem. But that’s merely the short list. Originally released as a single, “Time of the Season” has enjoyed a lengthy and unprecedented run, yet, ironically, the smooth, sexy ballad was originally passed over. A year after the now legendary “Odessey and Oracle”, on which it appeared, saturated and soared up the Billboard Charts, the original lineup of The Zombies: Hugh Grundy, Paul Atkinson, Chris White, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, had forged separate career paths. But fifty years later, their sophomore album still stands up as one of the most popular and beloved examples of psychedelic pop/rock ever.
The second night of the band’s appearance at spacious Thalia Hall was well-attended by fans of all ages. Some were old-time fans that had driven in from other Midwestern cities to see their favorite group and others were youthful first-timers, eager to see what the buzz was all about.
The current lineup of the Zombies: Tom Toomey, Jim Rodford, Steve Rodford, Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent walked on stage to thunderous applause. The formula was exciting. The first half of the show was dedicated to non “Odessey and Oracle” material. The set list included cuts from their most recent album, “Still Got That Hunger,” three from the thriller cult film, Bunny Lake is Missing and more. Although each one from the film was wistful, melodic and lyrical, “Just Out of Reach” had the most contemporary feel. Lead vocalist, Blunstone, dressed in black leather, spoke and sang the words, surrounded by blissful harmonies.
Other highlights included Argent’s sophisticated keyboard introduction to “Chasing The Past,” the bands’ versatility when merging ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ with “Bring You Sweet Loving” and Argent’s barrelhouse blues technique which upheld Blunstone’s swarthy phrasing on “Edge of a Dream.’
Argent meant business when introducing the “Argent” band hit, “Hold Your Head Up.” “Some people think the lyric is, ‘Hold your head up, whoa,’ but it’s hold your head up, woman,” he proclaimed. It was fantastic to hear the entire audience accept the vocal challenge. Not surprisingly, energy swept across the room as soon as the famous bass line ripped.
Earlier in the set, Blunstone’s voice was drenched with passion on “I Love You” and even more intense on “I Want You Back Again”. The band added various textures.
“It’s really important to us not to just be an oldies band. Doing all the old stuff is fantastic.” Rod Argent. “Moving On” and “Edge of a Dream” found Toomey and Argent brilliantly playing off of each other. The B section shifted to a contrasting tempo; all the more reason for some delightful improvisation. And when Blunstone performed “Tell Her No,” he triggered a unique melt-your-heart moment with his gentle but insistent interpretation.
The second half of the show included stunning audiovisuals reminiscent of the 1960s peace movement. and almost the entire original lineup – Paul Atkinson sadly passed away in 2004.
Drummer Hugh Grundy, bassist Chris White and his backing singer/artist wife were greeted warmly as they came onstage, accompanied by Darian Sahanaja, who helped recreate the keyboard parts of the “Odessey and Oracle” album.
The entire ensemble swung on “I Want Her She Wants Me.” The harmonies were compelling and the choppy rhythms got everyone up dancing. White’s tenor was especially evocative on “Brief Candles” and “Butcher’s Tale.”
There was time, too, for soulful intimacy when Argent and Blunstone performed a touching duet. But what was really remarkable was the diversity and timeliness of the material—the nostalgic “Beechwood Park,” the optimistic and prophetic “This Will Be Our Year”, and of course, the dreamy vibrancy of “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There,” which developed into a huge jam session.
And the audience? Although it was clear that they were having the time of their lives, they collectively stopped the clock after “Time of the Season” to hoot, cheer and clap for what might have been ten full minutes. (The Zombies humbly accepted the praise, before moving on to “She’s Not There.”)
The Zombies appearance at Thalia Hall was a one-off night; The title of their song, “This Will Be Our Year” pretty much says it all.