by Dave Segal
on Mon, Sep 2, 2013 at 10:25 AM
In this year’s edition of Bumbershoot’s old Englishmen, you couldn’t find a starker contrast between the Animals’ Eric Burdon and the Zombies’ Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone. Playing Starbucks Stage under a hot, blazing sun yesterday afternoon, Burdon was crotchety in a ridiculous gray hoodie that obscured most of his face. At one point, he shocked the family-oriented audience by shouting, “Fuck you, motherfucker!” to somebody hitting a beach ball toward the stage. Granted, he had a point. Beach balls are an inane distraction at a concert, and batting them around essentially communicates to the performers that they’re not entertaining enough on their own. Later, Burdon endearingly apologized for his vocals not being up to scratch compared to his prime years. Refreshing!
By contrast, the Zombies were unfailingly charming and gracious. Original members Argent and Blunstone provided historical context and anecdotes about the group’s tenure, which dates back to 1962. They conveyed extreme pride over accolades received from younger musicians like Dave Grohl, Paul Weller, and the Vaccines. It could’ve come off as obnoxious, but the men’s natural charm and sincere enthusiasm made it endearing.
Colin Blunstone's pipes are still golden.
The Zombies' set at Starbucks Stage last night went pretty much as Argent said it would in my interview with him. They began with “I Love You,” which allowed Blunstone to prove that his voice remains a distinctive conduit of blue-eyed soul that's just as pliant as it was during the '60s. This song’s chorus calls for a bravura, a cappella, heart-bearing declaration (“…and I don’t what to sayayay!”) and Colin nailed it brilliantly.
The Zombies also did two songs from their 2011 LP, Breathe Out, Breathe In: the title track and “Any Other Way.” Both were pretty good as these late-era tunes from ’60s vets go. They covered Tom Petty’s “I Want You Back Again,” jazzing and R&Bing it up with pizzazz. They did “Old and Wise,” a melodramatic ballad that Blunstone sang for Alan Parsons Project back in 1982. They did an A+ rendition of the gorgeous worldwide hit “Tell Her No.” They bestowed five songs from the 1967 classic Odessey and Oracle, including “Time of the Season,” on which Blunstone liberally altered the phrasing and hammed it up during the chorus (as is his right; if you do a song for 46 years, you’re allowed to go a bit crazy with the vibrato) while Argent progged the fuck out on his organs in the extended bridge. This song, unsurprisingly drew the longest, most fervid ovation of the night. One new thing I learned during the OAO stretch of the show: Tiger Woods used “This Will Be Our Year” to pay tribute to his father when he passed away. Very touching.
Rod Argent: "Here's a choon that made Dave Grohl green with envy."
The highlight for me was “Hold Your Head Up,” the 1972 smash by Argent, the group Rod formed immediately post-Zombies. Argent started the song by finessing an outrageously penetrating, low tone that would’ve done Throbbing Gristle proud. The group then launched into that famously pompous strut and commenced to maximize every ounce of excitement from this pinnacle of prog pop. This was probably the most progasmic segment of music Bumbershoot has experienced in a long, long time. And the capacity crowd lapped it up. At one point, Argent led the audience in a sing-along/clap-along (“hold your head up, WO-man!/hold your head up, WO-man!”), and the sheer greatness of the tune overcame the corniness of the gesture. (I think Argent kept on doing that clapping-over-the-head thing to show off his bulging biceps. Dude looks great for 68, no doubt about it.)
Jim Rodford is a badass bassman who doesn't need no stinkin' headstock.
The set closed with an urgent run through the 49-year-old chestnut “She’s Not There,” the Zombies’ first hit single, and afterward the band bowed together. What a thoroughly satisfying nostalgia buffet.
Setlist 01 I Love You 02 Can’t Nobody Love You 03 Breathe Out, Breathe In 04 I Want You Back Again 05 Tell Her No 06 Any Other Way 07 A Rose for Emily 08 Care of Cell 44 09 This Will Be Our Year 10 I Want Her She Wants Me 11 Time of the Season 12 Old and Wise 13 Hold Your Head Up 14 She’s Not There