The Left Banke - It is quite a treat to see this semi-obscure yet important sixties pop band back in action. The name is not as well known as many of their peers, but nearly every older music fan has heard "Walk Away Renee". The Left Banke is back and is performing their brand of baroque pop in a powerful way. Two original members, Tom Finn and George Cameron, are front and center on harmony vocals and a bit of acoustic guitar. Their voices are not enough to carry the leads and they were not often doing that anyway, so they have hired a fine lead vocalist along with lead guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, sample guy in the corner, and a 3-piece string section. The band was excellent and the arrangements sharp. The strings only came in when needed, although their first entrance in the second song was about three times as loud as it should have been--quickly fixed. This has been a band I have wanted to explore further, as I only knew of a few of the hits. And their material here confirmed that this is an excellent band who through managerial and personnel fiascoes deserved better. Their brand of pop has that lush orchestral feel to it that will remind you a lot of... well, the Zombies, but also even a bit of Beau Brummels and Brian Wilson as well. Still, the New York City roots are there as they do have a street do-wop toughness within the songs just as many other east coast pop bands seem to have back in the 1960s. The b-side to Renee really rocked out and they performed a good range of material from their different eras. This clean sharp 55-minute set was well received by the crowd, many of which knew this music very well.
The Zombies - This is my fourth time seeing this wonderful band that although better known than the openers, also did not fully rise to the success they deserved. They had great hits, but the odyssey of "Odyssey and Oracle" is a fascinating story that Rod Argent spent a little time telling tonight. He said it still sells better today than it did then (similar to the Velvet Underground and Nico LP released one year earlier). He recounted the many bands and musicians (Paul Weller, Dave Grohl) that do cover versions of Zombies songs and mention the Zombies in interviews, who along with the many fans like were here tonight, turned what was to be a six show series in 2000 into a 12 year international touring and recording revival. And why not, when Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone still have such great voices along with Argent's keyboard mastery still intact. I did detect a little strain on the vocal highs at time, but they are also at the end of a tour and were performing songs for radio shows during the day including an NPR session with Bob Boilen earlier in the day. Still, Colin Blunstone has remarkable feel for the music and his range is beyond anything what it should be at this point. I rightly got politely reprimanded by an extremely cordial person in England for not mentioning this in a previous review, so I will make sure to make it clear this time of how great he sounds. Rod Argent is also absolutely amazing and looks like he good go for another decade at least. The remaining three members include the father and son rhythm section, featuring long-time Kinks and Argent bassist, Jim Rodford still in fine form. I like the new guitarist they have had for a couple of years. He is the balancing act between the smooth lush moves that Colin Blunstone and Jim Rodford provide and the energetic playing of Rod Argent and Steve Rodford. His guitar work goes from blistering leads to acoustic flourish, while the sound is perfectly mixed for each song. The sound was great tonight and the 100-minute set had its usual balance of hits, occasionally played album cuts, Argent song, recent songs, and even an Alan Parsons Project song of Colin's. This the fourth venue I have seen them at and it served them well in terms of sound as well as history, as they really appreciated playing in a hall that hosted so many blues and jazz artists that they grew up with. 51 years and counting... there is absolutely no reason they should stop now as long as they enjoy it as much as they appear to.
Quote of the Night: Exchange from the Left Banke members before finishing up with 'Renee'...
"Want to do the one they came to hear?"
"OK then, 'Jeremiah was a...'"