Epic Studios, Norwich April 14, 2023
by Dave Stevens
It’s Bruce Sudano’s first night on The Zombies’ Life Is A Merry-Go-Round tour.
Strolling out wearing jeans, a black top and a black beanie, the American singer-songwriter plays acoustic guitar and is joined by his pal Don Piper, also on acoustic guitar, opening with Things Are Changing.
Even those who’ve not heard of Sudano before might know some of his songs – he’s written for Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton, amongst others.
And he’s still got it, with the poignant Make The World Go Away a recent standout single.
He tells us the stories of his life through his music, and what an interesting life he’s had.
Sudano recounts the story of meeting Donna Summer in the late 70s. They fell in love and co-wrote many songs together, including the disco hit Bad Girls, which he plays in its original acoustic form.
They were married for more than 30 years until her death in 2012. He says he’s not sure if he can love again and he isn’t looking for it, but he sings September In Your Eyes about unexpectedly finding new love.
He goes more upbeat with Coney Island Days, which includes segments of various standards such as La Bamba and Louie Louie.
And his last song, Damn Lonely On The Road, does what it says on the tin. It has echoes of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, but the sentiment is completely different.
It’s been a surprisingly interesting opening to tonight’s proceedings.
With more mullet on show than at the fishmonger at Norwich Market, The Zombies come on to announce they are going to play a mix of hits and obscure tracks.
They kick off with Moving On from 2015 album Still Got The Hunger, followed by I Want You Back Again – an old song that was re-recorded for that album.
Musically, they are on great form. Colin Blunstone still has a wonderful voice: this is particularly impressive as other singers of a similar age, or younger, are becoming vocally weaker.
Someone in the audience has a large toy sheep and is leaping around with it between songs, giving Rod Argent the perfect opening to make a quip about the band doing some 12 Baa Blues.
Tracks from this year’s release Different Game are as good as classic Zombies songs from the 1960s, and the performances are top notch. The new songs are a mix of styles, from the dreamy You Could Be My Love to the upbeat Merry Go Round.
Alongside Blunstone’s wonderful voice, the rest of the band contribute delicious harmonies. This is particularly apparent during a cover of Smokey Robinson’s You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, and also in Care of Cell 44. The latter is a highlight that kicks off a run of three songs from the now much-lauded Odessey And Oracle.
Blunstone leaves the stage, and very low, very loud bass notes ring out. These shake the foundations of the building and detritus starts to fall from ceiling. This is Argent’s moment, as it’s the start of Hold Your Head Up. It’s also where the set starts to get self-indulgent.
Here and during the following She’s Not There, we are “treated” to extended solos from each band member as they unnecessarily demonstrate their musical virtuosity.
The main set ends on a more subtle note with just Blunstone and Argent performing The Way I Feel Inside from the first album, and the full band return for an encore of Denny Laine’s Say You Don’t Mind.
The Zombies might be getting on a bit but they’ve still got talent and great songs. And when they keep their egos in check, they are excellent.