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  • Writer's pictureCraig Birchfield

8/29/2013 Zombies Triumphant!

One of the advantages of writing a blog for your own business is that you can veer a bit off topical as long as you stay in the same universe as you major purpose. In my case that would be music education and enrichment. I do need to issue a couple disclaimers here. First, I am not talking about the undead, the Zombies are a band. Second, if you hate and detest all aspects of popular music you might want to skip this posting. After all we are talking about cellos and violins on this site not drums and (gasp) electric guitars! Still, with the popularity of Cello Wars on YouTube (almost 14 million hits) I suspect that many of you out there are as comfortable with the Beatles and Michael Buble as you are with Bach and Bela Bartok. I promise there will be a point to all this at the end.

The Zombies are a seminal jazz tinged British rock band from the 1960’s led by keyboard wiz Ron Argent and vocalist Colin Blunstone. The entertainers that they have influenced are legion – from the Beach Boys to Elvis to Billy Joel to Tom Petty. At one point John Lennon offered to manage them. Even if you are not familiar with the band you probably know their songs, She’s not there, Time of the season, Tell her no, just to name a few. They made a rare appearance here in Portland at the Aladdin Theater tonight and I decided to go. I was just slightly apprehensive because, well, they are getting a bit long in the tooth (I’m allowed to say that since I am now looking at 60 in the rear view mirror) and I’ve been disappointed before. As much as I wanted to take what might be my only opportunity to see them perform I would hate to see them go through the motions of a show if they are only trading on their former glory.

The opening act was an up-and-coming British band called Et Tu Bruce. They were a solid 8 (1 to 10) with lush harmonies, infectious tunes and a front man that was a total hoot. I hoped that the Zoms knew what they were doing because no band wants to be upstaged by their opening act. Any misgivings that I might have had were completely vaporized a minute into their first song. The Zombies absolutely owned that venue tonight and they had the crowd in the palms of their hands. The backing musicians were as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. The four part harmonies were stellar. With the recent passing of both Ray Manzarek (Doors) and Jon Lord (Deep Purple) Rod Argent is one of the last iconic jazz-rock keyboardists of the 60’s and he carried the torch with passion and absolute virtuosity tonight. If there was a stand out for me in the band it was vocalist Colin Blunstone. With unabashed enthusiasm his amazing vocals soared over the roar of the band with seemingly no limit to power or range. I’ve seen a lot of acts live and I am trying to think of a vocal performance that I’ve heard that would top his. I am coming up blank. Pure joy.

Is there a point to all this? Absolutely. The Zombies recently release an album of new material to rave international reviews. Portland was their first stop on a new American tour and if the reaction of the crowd tonight is any indication it will be a very successful one. Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone are at the height of their musical powers and they are both 68. Not exactly one-foot-in-the grave but not kids either. Performing at the level they did tonight takes tremendous stamina. Apparently, no one told them that they should be sitting at home watching Britain’s Got Talent and tending to their stock portfolios. I love it when I get an adult in my shop, especially an older adult, who wants to learn to play an instrument. I also love it when I get parents in that are absolutely committed to see their young children enjoy and achieve excellence in playing music. If we want to come up with excuses for not achieving our dreams there are plenty to choose from: too young, too old, can’t afford a good instrument, too busy, etc. But the only real limits that we have are the ones that we put on ourselves. I think that the Creator smiles when we take what we have been given and go to the next level with it. I know that I smile when I see someone go for it.

So did I enjoy the concert tonight? Sure did. You gotta love a rock band that ends their set by leading the audience in a soulful version of Gershwin’s Summertime!

Keep Practicing,


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