Night of The Zombies

It’s not that I love music any less. Just a sign of how busy my life has become.

The 2017 edition of Ottawa Bluesfest was a week old before I made my first excursion.  No time for that one either (I have a project on deadline) but under some circumstances you have to make an exception.

The Zombies

Colin Blunstone of The Zombies is seen here performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard as one of the most successful music events in North America.  ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Scott Penner

I missed The Zombies the last time they were‎ here, traveling in Europe at that point I think. I wasn’t going to miss them this time.

I have a sentimental attachment to the band who first rose to prominence about the time I was discovering the power of rock and roll. Admittedly though, that attachment is more towards the solo efforts of keyboard player Rod Argent.  On Tuesday night I knew I would hear the Zombies’ biggest hits, “Tell her No” and “She’s Not there” (and of course “Time Of The Season”) – but I was hoping even more for “Hold Your head Up” and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.” The latter I song I used for several years as a theme tune to the radio show I hosted, albeit the version I used was a cover by Petra.

Going to see a band of septuagenarians is not without its risks. Will they still be able to pull it off, or will age have taken its toll on their abilities? I have seen both brilliance and embarrassment from sixties rock stars in this millennium, so I know the risk.

From the opening notes of “I Love You,” a Zombies tune that was turned into a hit by Larry Norman’s band People in 1967, it was apparent that 50 years of music hasn’t dulled the band’s abilities. The guitars were crisp and clear, the rhythm section driving, Colin Blunstone’s vocals soaring and Rod Argent’s keyboards filling in any gaps between the notes.

The Zombies

Rod Argent of The Zombies  ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Scott Penner

The crowd was enthralled as the band played the hits, showcased some newer material and some more obscure older songs. I didn’t get “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” which was expected, but the last song before the encore was a blistering version of “Hold Your Head Up” that sounded as powerful as it did in 1972.

By my guess there were between three and five thousand people taking in the performance. The folks at Bluesfest have reconfigured the Bluesville area of the site this year, so my crowd judging sense may be off a little. Plus, I was watching the band, not the crowd.

I was impressed by the new arrangement though. They seem to have solved the problem of sound bleed from the main stage, and the whole area is now under a huge tent, with bleachers for some lucky fans about 50 metres from the stage. That’s a Bluesfest first, and it was very welcome on a night with rain in the forecast (it wound up not raining, but it could have) when I didn’t feel like carrying a lawn chair. The two main stages draw too many people for such an arrangement, but I think it is a positive development, an example of Bluesfest listening to feedback from the fans.

For now I get to bask in the afterglow of The Zombies as I get some projects done. Then I get to go back to Bluesfest once more to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Sunday. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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