LIVE REVIEW: The Zombies at Barbican Centre, London

The Zombies at Barbican Centre, London
Photography by Alex Lake

This show commemorated 60 years since the St Albans-formed band began recording at the then-Decca Studios in West Hampstead in 1964. This achievement is remarkable, especially considering The Zombies amicably split in 1967, believing they had peaked.

With just one top-twenty single, their decision to disband is understandable. However, their sophomore post-break-up LP, Odessey and Oracle, released a year later, showcased their maturity and ability to embrace Beach Boys harmonies and psychedelic elements while still creating instant pop classics like “Time of the Season.” Although a reunion took time, with the release of their seventh LP, Different Game, in 2023 and their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame four years earlier, it’s clear that The Zombies cannot be confined to a mid-sixties craze.

One admirer, Paul Weller, introduced the band and sang “Beechwood Park” from Odessey and Oracle during the show’s second half. The opening songs, “It’s Alright with Me” and “I Want You Back Again,” oozed adolescent Rock & Roll energy, reminiscent of bands like The Shadows. The genius and justification for their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction became evident on track five, “Different Game.” The deftness of the original organ arrangements was undeniably on par with heavyweights like Procol Harum and The Doors, made even more spectacular considering organist Rodney Argent is on the cusp of turning 79.

The next guest appearance was Sarah Brown, who has recorded with Stevie Wonder. Once Brown was escorted to the correct microphone stand, she and The Zombies synchronised perfectly to cover George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” The defining jazz arrangements continued with “Dropped Reeling & Stupid” from Different Game, which drew inspiration from Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”

The second half featured more material from Odessey and Oracle and special guests, including The Hoosiers’ Irwin Sparkes, who performed on “Care of Cell 44” with Beach Boys-like harmonies. The energy and union at the Barbican were so strong that even former Zombies band members joined the stage. Former bassist Chris White joined Rodney Argent to perform Odessey and Oracle’s solemn “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914).”

The Zombies also performed “Hold Your Head Up,” a song Chris White wrote for Argent’s post-Zombies band, Argent. Not everyone at the time of the song’s release in the seventies knew what the word after “up” was. Rodney confirmed it was “woman,” reflecting the difficulties White’s wife was then experiencing. This psychedelic song became the anthem of the evening, with the audience enthusiastically chanting “woman” in unison.

Naturally, the band’s top-twenty single “She’s Not There” was played, with all the guest musicians (except Paul Weller) joining the band for an extended rendition of this classic. With such a large cast and the elation levels reaching a crescendo, one might have expected “She’s Not There” to be the finale. However, the audience was treated to an emotive warm-down with “The Way I Feel Inside.”

The Zombies proved they were more than just a bright star that briefly shone before combusting three years later. They initially enticed and captivated the Barbican with adolescent Rock & Roll, then enlightened the audience with spiritual and intelligent psychedelic and prog elements without severing ties to their pop origins and soothing harmonies. It was evident how greats such as Paul Weller were in awe of and inspired by The Zombies, affirming that the band truly deserved their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

 

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 346 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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