at The Greek Theatre
September 20, 2018
Reviewed by Anthony Servante
I've often spoken with you readers about the trials and tribulations of getting to and from concerts without a motor vehicle or public transportation and my reliance on rides from family and friends. Often, as well, the person who gives me a ride will usually ask: Who's the band? Much akin to asking What are you serving when invited to dinner. In this case, I told them the band was THE ZOMBIES. He accepted my invitation. I asked him when was the last time he's been to a concert and he answered, "Pink Floyd--in 1969." Needless to say, my driver and friend was giddy as hell to be invited to see a band from his era of music. I didn't mention that ARCADE FIRE was the headliner. I know that he didn't know who they were. And it didn't matter. He was going to see The Zombies. And now with a ride, so was I.
We made good time. He knew every shortcut and he turned an hour trip into twenty-five minutes of back-roads and side streets. I got the tickets and "After Concert Party" passes, we parked the car, and we grabbed a pretzel and Diet Coke before finding our seats. We landed 12 seats back from center stage, right between the speaker system, with a perfect view of the light show. After a thirty minute wait, the lights dimmed twice, warning the attendees to find their seats. Then The Zombies took to the stage.
Colin Blunstone still sings for the band, and has since the 1960s; Rod Argent still plays keyboards and sings as well. Tom Toomey plays guitar and sings backing vocals. Soren Koch has bass duties, and Steve Rodford is in charge of percussion. The last time I saw the band, other original members joined this line-up to play the group's "Odessey and Oracle" (1968) in its entirety. For the Greek Theatre show, Argent and gang played four songs from the 1968 LP and cherry picked a selection of hits from The Zombies years. Nope, no Argent music ("Hold Your Head Up") was played this time out for this truncated version of the O & O show that I saw in Beverly Hills.
What worked best this time out that was missing from the longer concert last time (nearly two hours in BH versus 45 minutes at the Greek) was the improvisational versions of the hits. Argent traded jam lines with Tom Toomey's guitar licks, and Koch and Rodford exchanged bass and drum beats during longer versions of songs like "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No". These jams maximized the limited time the band had by sticking to the hit songs and adding that extra bit of jazzy improv. The crowd responded enthusiastically while the Arcade Fire seemed a bit surprised to hear such "old songs" played so lively.
If you haven't seen this line-up of the band, I recommend that you see them soon as they are still currently touring. I didn't mention this up front, but let me just point out that this was the most eclectic pairing of opening band and headliner since Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees. I mean, hit songs from the 1960s leading up to Indie hits from 2004-2018. It was a unique pairing, a one of a kind concert, and I guarantee you will never see the likes of such a classic line-up again. But that doesn't mean you should give up. Arcade Fire is inviting some interesting opening acts on the California leg of their tour. Take advantage and take in a show before it ends.
I love this band. Little did I realize that history was going to be made this night. There was no point in sitting down in the great seats. The whole theatre crowd was on its feet as soon as the lights dimmed and the opening notes of Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) started the show. The roar of the audience was massive. This was the opening song from the band's debut LP "Funeral", which is rarely played. Then the second song began: Neighborhood #2 (Laika). The first two songs from the first album played back to back. Could this be happening? Yes. It was. Arcade Fire played the entire Funeral LP exactly in the order of songs that it was recorded. In a decision that was made just minutes before the show began, the band decided to play their first record from beginning to end. After all, they've never played it all before. And, besides, it was 14 years ago that the LP was released.
And boy did they play the shit out of those songs. The audience was like the tenth member of the band, singing along to the harmonies and chorus lines. Every Oooo-ooo-oo, Ahhh-ahh-ah, matched the band's vocals and back-up vocals. The Greek crowd was the third harmonic for the band that night. We were part of that historic moment as Arcade Fire played the classic cuts from their first music hits, the hits that brought this crowd to this show tonight, to sell out the Greek Theatre. (I was offered hundreds of dollars for my tickets as I walked to the entrance). Poor fools who sold their tickets and missed this historic moment is music legend.
After the last song from the LP was played ("In the Backseat"), the band took a five minute break, then returned to play a "best of" Arcade Fire hits from 2004-2018. Every song had an choreographed light show that combined confetti, fake snow, band members appearing in the audience, three screens showing animation to accompany the lyrics, and color lighting to set the mood on certain songs. It was a feast for the ears and eyes, and as you fans know, that combination of sound and lyrics is a feast for the mind as well. It was an epic musical show that could only be enjoyed standing. The seats were an encumbrance.
For my driver, he said he loved The Zombies and the first half of Arcade Fire. He's got good taste, obviously. The newer music by AF takes multiple listenings to truly appreciate. I'll lend my friend my AF CDs, and maybe we'll see them again next time they're in town. But we'll also keep our eyes open for The Zombies shows locally. However, we can forget ever seeing this pairing of bands ever again (Never say never, says the optimist). But we saw them tonight. We saw The Zombies jam on their hits, and we saw Arcade Fire play an LP they've never played in its entirety before. There may be more historic moments in Rock and Roll (tonight being one of them) in the future, but there will NEVER be another concert like September 20, 2018 at The Greek Theatre.
And we were there....