The Zombies, Odessey & Oracle and Beyond

GIG: The Zombies, Odessey & Oracle and Beyond, last ever UK performance
DATE: April 25th 2009
VENUE: HMV Apollo, Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London, W6
COST: £28.50 plus the usual exorbitant booking fees!
RATING: Zombie Heaven

The weather forecast warned of showers, but Saturday 25th April was a fine, bright sunny day in London town. Following a quick drink in The Blue Anchor, a quaint pub on the Thames riverbank, and meeting up with some friends, we strolled the short distance to the HMV Apollo to see what was the last performance in the UK, start to finish, of the fantastic Odessey & Oracle album.

The merchandise stall was not cheap…. Most of the product could be bought for a much cheaper price (the T-shirts are only £18 on the Zombies website versus the £20 plus £1.50 credit card fee being charged at the merchandise booth). However, many of the CDs and DVDs on sale had been personally signed by the remaining original members of the band, Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White and Hugh Grundy and people were quite willing to pay the premium for these.

It was just past 8pm when Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone took to the stage with the Zombies Touring band… Keith Airey on guitar, Jim Rodford on bass and Jim’s son Steve on drums. Rod spent a couple of minutes giving a brief account of the 40th anniversary of the Odessey & Oracle album, before a sound engineer woke up and actually put Rod’s mic on full power!!! At this point, Rod acknowledged Darian Sahanaja, the musical director of Brian Wilson’s band who was providing extra keyboards, mellotron and backing vocals for the bands rendition of the album, thus ensuring every note on the album was replayed exactly on stage. There was obviously a number of Brian Wilson fans in the audience as that brief introduction to Darian, although he was not even on stage at this point of the gig, received a heartfelt cheer and a decent round of applause.

The first half was a mixture of Zombies, Blunstone and Argent songs… kicking off with “I Love Her”. Straight away, Colin’s vocals were outstanding… Minty had goose-bumps at one stage, they were so perfect. Other highlights of the first half were “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted”, “Sticks & Stones”, “I Don’t Believe In Miracles” and for 2 numbers, a string quintet accompanied Colin on “Misty Roses” and “Say You Don’t Mind”. The closing number was Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” which had the audience clapping along and resulted in rapturous applause, and a standing ovation as the band left the stage.

Everyone in the band during that first half looked like they really enjoyed being on stage. Keith Airey, in particular, acted out every note he played and was quite fetching in a sparkly waistcoat (so says Jacqui!). The vocal range that Colin has retained is remarkable, being as strong on the high notes, as he is mid-range, and he really seemed comfortable with the whole show.

A 30 minute interval (and believe me you needed that long a break just to queue for the loos – but more of that later) gave us the opportunity to mingle in the foyer and have a beer.

Second set… the whole, complete Odessey & Oracle from start to finish. This was the 3rd time we had seen this show (previous ones being the warm up at the Stables in Milton Keynes and the Shepherds Bush Empire premier last year) and it did not disappoint at all. Rod and Colin, joined by the other 2 remaining members of the original Zombies, Chris White on bass and Hugh Grundy behind the drums, complemented with Keith Airey on guitar and Darian Sahanaja on keyboards / mellotron, and Chris’ wife adding the high notes on the harmonies, and a brass section contributing their bit on some songs, the set began with track one “Care of Cell 44” and went through to “Time Of The Season”. It was perfect.
The brass section must have been real fans themselves. They drove up and down the UK under their own steam to play at all this weeks gigs. Good on them. Chris’ vocal on “Butchers Tale” was superb, and seeing Darian on stage playing what is his all time favourite album, and really making a difference to the harmonies, was a treat.

In Glasgow earlier in the week, the band had done a 3 song encore, but in London, after the standing ovation and after Rod had introduced each member of the band, they all remained on stage and performed those encore songs, “Tell Her No”, “Going Out Of my Head” and “She’s Not There”. What tasty treats were to come as an encore we wondered? After the thunderous applause that heralded the end of “She’s Not There”, the band did leave the stage. A couple of minutes of feet stamping, chants of “more, more, more” they came back out of the wings and performed their final number “Summertime”.

What a fantastic night this was, marred only by a member of the audience sitting behind us who felt the urge to comment to her partner on every song, and was especially loud during the string ensemble’s prelude to “Misty Roses”. After Minty hissed at her to keep it down to a whisper she did shut up. Then in the 2nd half, a group of young girls hijacked the empty seats next to us, and although it was good to see they were having fun, they obviously had not been allowed to drink alcohol on their own before, and kept disturbing the row to go to the loo. One of the girls thought the fact she was the daughter of Hugh Grundy gave her the right to disturb everyone else! She was told to enjoy the show and shut up!

As soon as we arrived back home, the first thing BB did was fire up the PC and order the box set “Zombie Heaven.” BB’s first ever gig was Argent back in 1972. Almost 40 years later and there was as great an impression made on him tonight as there was back then. But he didn’t have flared jeans on this time.

So a fantastic gig.

And the loos? Well, come on Hammy Apollo… you can do better, much much better. Four cubicles and a queue at least 40 deep…. The venue was having a laugh.


  1. Hold Your Head Up was one of the first songs I ever got into - I had a K-tel complilation album for Christmas 74 and I vividly remember that song!

  2. Ah such memories.... K-Tel compilations!