“Magic!” The Zombies LIVE! at Ocean City Music Pier
As we wait on the boardwalk for tonight’s August 19, 2019 concert by The Zombies outside Ocean City, NJ’s historic Ocean City Music Pier, we chat with a young man, Jonathan from Pottstown, PA, who proudly sports a Zombies T-shirt.
Reveals Jonathan, “I love The Zombies — I like their vocals, their instrumentals, their songs, and their musicality — and I especially love their 1968 recording, Odyssey and Oracle, which is a fantastic album. Even today — over a half-century since it was originally released — the songs are still strong.”
Continuing, “When I was younger, I listened to this music, rediscovered it in high school, and continued to listen to The Zombies when I was in college,” Jonathan concludes by noting, “We came all the way from Pennsylvania for this concert — this is our third time seeing them — so I’m looking forward to a really great show.”
Jonathan’s father, Graham, agrees acknowledging, “Jonathan got me back into The Zombies. The music is actually from my era. The vocals are there, the keyboardist is great, and the group is an inspiration. They don’t mess around, so I’m certain they’re going to put on a terrific performance tonight.”
We also chat with Rick from Exton, PA, who recalls, “I’ve been a huge fan of The Zombies since the 1970s. I was waiting for them to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the longest time, and this year — 2019 — they finally made it!”
Adding, “This is the first time I’m seeing the group in person,” Rick notes, “I love that they’re a part of the original British Invasion. I love the stories within the songs, I love Colin Blunstone’s lead vocals, and I love Rod Argent’s organ and keyboard playing — that great 60’s sound!” before concluding, “Whenever I hear The Zombies’ music, it takes me back to a time when I was young and first heard these songs, so I really can’t wait to re-experience them again here this evening.”
We make our way inside the beautiful Ocean City Music Pier auditorium — a venue with windows which overlook both the Ocean City Boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean — where opening act Ninet Tayeb is taking the stage along with her band members, Joseph E-Shine on guitar and Yotam on drums.
Ninet — an Israeli rock star who is currently based in Los Angeles — opens with an original song entitled “Self Destructive Mind.”
Her rich alto voice wails on this emotional ballad as her husband, Joseph E-Shine, expressively accompanies her on electric guitar and Yotam powerfully adds to the mix by playing a large drum and cymbal set-up with mallets.
Recording her voice live as she adds harmony lines to build layers of sound one on top of another a la Ed Sheeran, Ninet performs “Child.” Her mournful vocal prompts the crowd to burst into applause before launching into “Superstar,” a sultry number with an infectious beat that boasts a Middle Eastern-sounding Joseph E-Shine guitar line.
A highlight of Ninet’s set is her creative interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” which features a shuffle beat, intriguing vocal effects, and a soulful lead vocal.
Following large applause, Tayeb welcomes the crowd revealing, “We’re from Israel originally. We moved to Los Angeles three years ago,” before declaring, “We really love music, so we can’t wait for The Zombies to come out and play!”
E-shine fingerpicks his electric guitar on “Black Seeds,” a pretty ballad which features a softer vocal performance from Ninet, before she concludes her set with an exceptional performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Her voice exposed, Ninet sings from her heart with masterful articulation, dynamics, and tone. Interpreting the lyric as E-Shine and Yotam’s instruments compliment her dramatic lead, the crowd cheers, hollers, and rises from their seats for Ninet and her group’s heartfelt performance.
During a short intermission between acts, we chat with several audience members who comment on Ninet’s performance this evening.
Whereas Jerry from Philadelphia remarks, “It’s such a pleasant surprise to hear an opening act like Ninet,” Debbie from Philadelphia asserts, “Leonard Cohen is smiling in his grave — Ninet’s voice is incredible; the sky is the limit for her.”
Gary from Ocean City agrees stating, “I’ve heard ‘Hallelujah’ so many times that the last thing I wanted tonight was to hear that song again, but Ninet has such an incredible voice and is so passionate about her performance — you can tell she really loves what she’s doing — it was a pleasure to hear her sing it again; it truly made my day.”
We also get a moment to catch up with Ninet herself who, when asked about her performance here in Ocean City tonight, replies, “I just love New Jersey — the people here are so beautiful, and I just love the vibe here,” before declaring with a smile, “I want to move here!”
The lights dim and an announcement is made: “Please welcome the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 inductees — The Zombies!”
As Zombies’ founding members Colin Blunstone on vocals and Rod Argent on keyboards take their places on stage along with current bandmates Tom Toomey on guitar, Søren Koch on bass, and Steve Rodford on drums, the audience cheers and gives this talented group of musicians a warm and welcoming standing ovation.
Blunstone starts off the group’s first number, “Road Runner,” with a vocal screech while Rod Argent rocks a boogie woogie keyboard intro and the band plays with an edge on this bluesy rocker which features Tom Toomey sliding up and down the neck on a distorted guitar solo.
The audience cheers and the group launches into a Zombies’ song from 1965 entitled “I Want You Back Again.” As Blunstone sings, “Somebody help me/I’ve got to eat/Somebody help me/To stand on my feet/I want you back again,” Toomey’s guitar echoes Blunstone’s vocal line on this jazzy number which features a sparkling Argent keyboard solo.
The musicians watch one another as the song builds in intensity before Blunstone’s legato vocal joins in again on the melody to large cheers and applause.
Blunstone takes a moment to thank the crowd stating, “This is such a beautiful hall, and a beautiful situation,” before acknowledging, “The Zombies have been playing over 50 years. All the songs we will play tonight have a connection to The Zombies — so we’ll play songs from the mid-60s to the present, including some new songs.”
Three-part background vocals accompany Blunstone’s emotional lead on the 1965 pop rocker, “I Love You.”
The musicians follow up with “Sanctuary,” where Argent plays a jazzy piano intro before the band morphs into a Latin rhythm and Blunstone sings, “Will you be my sanctuary/Comfort me when all the world’s in vain?” as audience members move in their seats to the infectious beat.
Following a keyboard solo by Argent where he switches on and off between piano and organ, the group concludes the song with a jazzy ending on the coda.
The audience hoots and hollers and Rod Argent says, “We love the old stuff, but we get excited about the new material, too,” before performing “Moving On,” a song from the group’s most recent recording, 2015’s Still Got That Hunger. Blunstone’s warm and resonant vocal is accompanied by harmonies provided by Argent and Koch on this bluesy rocker which features strong electric guitar and bass lines peppered with tasty keyboard playing from Argent and solid drumming from Rodford.
Blunstone shows his vocal range and depth on his performance of another song from Hunger entitled “Edge of the Rainbow.” Argent supports him with a barrelhouse piano accompaniment before the band kicks in on this swinging jazzy blues number with an old-time Broadway sound.
The audience whistles and cheers as soon as they recognize the intro of the group’s 1965 Top Ten hit, “Tell Her No.” The entire house happily sings along on the tune’s famous “Tell her no no no no no-no-no-no/No no no no no-no-no-no” chorus before audience members rise to their feet for an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Moving on to a slow rockin’ version of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” Blunstone and Argent handle the lead in two-part vocal harmony. The crowd claps along and Blunstone vocally ad libs over tight three-part harmonies provided by Argent, Koch, and Toomey on this 1962 Motown staple which was initially recorded by The Zombies in 1965.
When the audience responds with cheers and hoots, Argent gives the audience a happy thumbs-up.
Blunstone announces that producer Alan Parsons invited him to sing on the next tune, “Old and Wise” with The Alan Parsons Project. Starting off with keyboard and voice, Blunstone sings, “As far as my eyes can see/There are shadows approaching me/And to those I left behind/I wanted you to know/You’ve always shared my deepest thoughts/You follow where I go,” on this poignant ballad.
After the band joins in, the dynamics and texture of the arrangement build. The crowd applauds for Blunstone’s heartfelt vocal and stands following Toomey’s whirling electric guitar solo on the coda.
The Zombies follow up by treating the audience to a new song slated to appear on their next album. Lights flash on “Merry Go Round,” an upbeat rocker that rolls ever forward as Blunstone sings “Life is a merry go round,” the motion of the song inviting the audience to move along with the music.
Argent introduces the group’s next four songs, revealing they are from The Zombies’ acclaimed 1968 recording, Odyssey and Oracle, which he notes, “sells more albums now than when it first came out” and is included as one of the “top 100 albums of all time.”
Vocal harmonies ring out on the bubbly “Care of Cell 44” as audience members clap and sway to the rhythm of this feel-good number.
Blunstone’s voice is compelling on “This Will Be Our Year,” singing with ease and style on this breezy song of hope which inspires a standing ovation.
Argent starts out handling the lead on the swinging rocker, “I Want Her, She Wants Me,” as Blunstone joins him in adding a sweet harmony part.
A highlight of tonight’s show is The Zombies’ live performance of their 1969 Top 5 smash, “Time of the Season.” Recreating the original recording’s unique drumbeat along with the iconic “ah” vocal and body percussion with stunning accuracy, the audience happily sings along on the tune’s “What’s your name?/Who’s your daddy?/Is he rich like me?” lyric before Argent and Blunstone conduct the crowd as they join in on the famous “It’s the time of the season for loving” refrain.
Argent takes an other-worldly organ solo where he plays hand over hand — slapping the instrument’s keys fast and furiously — clearly proving why he’s one of the world’s preeminent keyboardists as the band jams behind him.
Audience members stand and cheer, the musicians appearing to enjoy the audience’s reaction to their performance.
Rod encourages the audience to sing along on a 1972 Top 5 hit for his band, Argent, “Hold Your Head Up,” informing them that the correct lyrics to the song are “Hold your head up, woman.”
Starting with a rumbling low note on the organ, Argent’s keyboard sound crescendos until audience members can physically feel its tone within their bodies.
The crowd begins to clap to the song’s sultry bass and guitar line before they joyfully — and correctly — join in singing on the tune’s anthemic chorus.
What follows is a tour de force display of keyboard wizardry by Rod Argent. The audience claps along as Argent builds his solo, crescendoing to the flashing lights. Toomey and Koch watch Argent and clap along until they are signaled to join in the dance with their instruments as Argent dazzles as only he can.
Koch and Toomey follow up by playing their instruments back to back, dueling with their electric axes before Argent cleverly introduces the melody from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” to the mix.
The audience rises to its feet for Rod Argent before the song slips back into the repeating “Hold your head up” vocal line, and Argent walks across the stage from one side to to the other, inviting the crowd to participate in the fun by thrusting their fists in the air on the word, “Woman,” before the party comes to a joyful conclusion.
After introducing the current members of The Zombies, the group performs a number which Argent calls “the first song we ever recorded” — the group’s 1962 Top 5 hit, “She’s Not There.”
Blunstone’s vocal is clear and strong as he croons, “But it’s too late to say you’re sorry/How would I know, why should I care?/Please don’t bother trying to find her/She’s not there.”
Argent’s keyboard spins as Toomey wails out a guitar solo and the audience can’t help but move to the rhythm of the music.
Koch and Rodford share the spotlight on a combined bass and drum solo where the instrumentalists play off one another. Then, Koch is featured on a slap bass solo, pointing to the audience to say “Hey!” each time he strums a chord.
Following a rhythmic Argent keyboard solo, Blunstone retakes the lead of this timeless song which ends with cheers and a reply of “One more?”
For The Zombies’ final number, the group performs Argent’s 1973 hit, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.” Audience members play air drums as their heads bop. They move to the music while Blunstone sings “God gave rock and roll to you/Gave rock and roll to you/Put it in the soul of everyone” to Argent’s swirling keyboard.
Toomey finger-picks on his electric as the song slows down and the audience sings a rousing version of the “God gave rock and roll to you” chorus for the band.
Then, Toomey picks up speed on his guitar before these Hall of Famers rejoin the crowd in a rousing, wailing coda of rock before Blunstone declares, “Thank you and good night!”
The standing ovation continues as the band takes a bow and waves goodbye.
As audience members filter out of the Ocean City Music Pier auditorium, we chat with several concertgoers who share their thoughts on The Zombies’ performance this evening.
First, we chat with Jonathan and his father, Graham, from Pottstown, with whom we spoke before this evening’s concert. Whereas Jonathan refers to tonight’s effort by The Zombies as “Excellent,” Graham asserts, “This might have been their best concert yet!”
Next, we chat with Gabby from California who remarks, “I loved this show! The Zombies were one of my favorites bands when I was growing up. I started listening to them on Spotify when I was 16 or 17, and I really loved their performance tonight,” before noting, “and it took place in this pretty venue in such a beautiful location.”
Maria from Syracuse agrees adding, “It was great! I loved this show, and I also really loved seeing it in this venue which is located right on the beach.”
Janet from Brigantine comments, “The vibe tonight was all about the last half century — Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent have been delivering the same music with the same vibe for the past 50 years.”
Acknowledging, “Their music runs deep in my veins — it’s music that brings me home,” Janet concludes by calling tonight’s performance by The Zombies, “exhilarating.”
Lastly, we chat with Rita from Cape May who recalls, “I’ve been a fan of The Zombies since 1964.” Explaining, “I know good music when I hear it,” Rita declares, “The group sounds better now than ever.”
Revealing, “Their music has always said something to my brain — which is why I’ve followed it for all of these years,” Rita concludes by proclaiming, “It’s magic.”
To learn more about The Zombies, please go to thezombiesmusic.com. For further info on Ninet, click on ninet.bandcamp.com. For information on future concerts at Ocean City Music Pier — including Boz Scaggs on November 16, 2019 — please go to ocnj.us/summerconcerts.