Thursday, more than 50 years after the Zombies’ first hit, the British-invasion band made its New Orleans debut.
Featuring original Zombies Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, the group opened their show at the House of Blues with the classic “I Love You.” Guitarist Tom Toomey, an excellent latter-day Zombie, launched the 90-minute-plus show with the song’s urgent guitar-arpeggio intro.
The show proved the Zombies are more than three signature hits. Besides the hits, they played a suite of songs from their cult classic album “Odessey and Oracle,” hits by the band — called simply Argent — that keyboard player Argent founded post-Zombies, a few of Blunstone’s European solo hits and the world premiere of a new Zombies song.
The slim, all-black-attired Blunstone towered onstage. He’s still recognizable as the front man in the Zombies video clips from the ’60s available on YouTube. His voice, unlike those of many singers his age and younger, is in fine condition. And band members backed his lead singing with clouds of sweet, delicate harmonies.
Like their British peers — the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, etc. — the Zombies were influenced by American music. In New Orleans, the group made their rendition of Solomon Burke’s soul hit, “Can’t Nobody Love You,” the second song of the night. A bluesy, New Orleans sound showed up again during the premiere performance of “Edge of the Rainbow,” featuring gospel-style piano from Argent. “You’ll hear that on our new album,” he said.
“I Want You Back Again,” an original Argent composition from the mid-’60s, showed both rhythm-and-blues and jazz influences, especially during Argent’s extended piano solo.
“This is our very, very first time in New Orleans,” Blunstone announced after “I Want You Back Again.” “It’s taken us 52 years to get here.”
Blunstone, who spoke to The Advocate recently, and Argent, both 69, often introduced the songs, giving brief lessons in Zombies history.
It was a testament to the Zombies’ depth of repertoire that they made the second of their three hits, 1965’s “Tell Her No,” their fourth song of the show. Like much of the group’s material, “Tell Her No” features Blunstone’s passion and, apropos for a band called the Zombies, a subtly eerie quality. “Tell Her No” inspired a long round of appreciation from an audience that was apparently delighted to be revisiting the ’60s, whether they remembered them or not.
The “Odessey and Oracle” set included “A Rose for Emily,” “Care of Cell,” “This Will Be Our Year,” “I Want Her She Wants Me” (featuring a rare Argent lead vocal) and the album’s 1969 hit, “Time of the Season.” More sustained applause followed the mystical yet undeniably primal “Season.”
Late in the show, Argent’s rock anthems “Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock & Roll to You” had the crowd singing along.
Argent and Blunstone, however, weren’t quite finished. Minus their bandmates, the duo performed “The Way I Feel Inside,” a beautiful pop ballad from the Zombies’ debut album. It was a bit too intimate for the noisy House of Blues crowd, but still a lovely way to say their first goodbye to New Orleans.