Acoustic Strawbs - This is my third time seeing this three-piece line-up after seeing the whole band one time. I would like to see Oliver Wakeman and Rod Coombes again some time for the full-band sound, but I understand the touring economics. And there is no keeping me away from the trio of Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk as long as they keep their voices. I always look for that with aging bands and the two Daves still were able to hit all the notes needed to bring out the strength of the wonderful Strawbs material. Cousins still showed the required flexibility on the challenging "New World". Lambert's guitar work again is strong with nice slide touches, finger picking and electric-like solos on his acoustic. Cronk plays synth pedals as usual which is a welcome cheat on the acoustic concept. He also switches easily between 12-sting guitar and acoustic bass. Cousins played some alt tunings which seemed a bit off in the beginning of Copenhagen, but was not too distracting once the song got going. The only complaint I might have is that it would be interesting to rotate in a few more songs as the set does seem to stay the same over the years (In a few words, I miss "Witchwood"). But they prove to me once again, that they still have the energy and skill in spite of their humorous request to buy Strawbs merchandise to give to your appreciative grandmothers for Christmas. The Strawbs are still one of the great bands that have a bit more respect from other musicians than the far ranging music fans of their era. Thankfully, they are still catering to us hardcore fans and have the ability to even pick up a few new ones.
Set List: Benedictus/Sheep?/New World/Oh How She Changed/Ghosts/Copenhagen/Autum/Lay Down
The Zombies - I mainly went to see these legends a few years back because they were touring with Love which was my first chance to see Arthur Lee (sadly, the last as he passed away shortly thereafter). I had been hopeful the Zombies would still be fresh, but I was wary with the vocal requirements of their excellent back catalog. They delivered big-time that night and still are going strong. Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent can still bring it and Argent's keyboard flair with its surprising amount of jazz is still brilliant. Argent must be drinking from the same well as Comus's Bobbie Watson as it is hard to believe you are not seeing Rod Argent's son on stage. Perhaps he is touring with a Dorian Gray portrait hidden away, but whatever the case, he looks great and plays even better. His cousin, Jim Rodford, is on bass and although the former Kinks bassist may show more of his age, his musical ability is still strong and he has been with the Zombies for many years now. There were new folks on guitar and drums and they may have even improved things a bit. The drummer was a good hitter and really showcased the odd beat of the Argent tune "Hold Your Head Up" with its 1-2-3-4 on kick and floor tom with a snare on a half-beat once a measure. Odd how it sometimes takes a live show for me to notice interesting things on songs I have heard hundreds of times. But that is just one more reason to continue seeing great older bands. Most of them do not relish looking like charity cases and they do work hard to maintain the quality. The Zombies are clearly one of the better older acts out there. And when they showcase five songs from Odessey and Oracle, even lukewarm Zombies fans can see why these guys were one of the great unsung bands of the sixties. Argent does explain part of the story of that album and its odd history that has it selling more copies even now than it did in the day (a fate shared by their former touring mates, Love with "Forever Changes" and the Velvet Underground's first album among a few others). The band played plenty of the earlier hits as well as several songs from their recent album. Although songs like "She's Not There" and "Tell her No" are always going to get a bigger pop from the crowd, it is great to see an older band have the desire to not only record new material, but work a lot of it in to their present show. That may be the real secret of staying young. This is the 50th anniversary of the start of the band (although recordings came three years after 1961) and the end appears to be well off in the horizon. I would think most all of the people in the sold-out show would come back again next year.
Quote of the Night: Overheard before the show... "I was the last person to see the Electric Prunes... alive. Oh, and I bought their last purple t-shirt."