A few weeks ago my mom, sister and I went to see Van Morrison at GM Place; it was one of the weakest shows I’ve been to. Van looked as though he had been woken up from a nap when he rolled out onto stage, he didn’t once address the crowd, and—though his sax playing was great—his voice sounded pretty rough (or maybe he was just slurring the lyrics, which would explain the grogginess). He left the stage, two thirds of the way through “Gloria,” exactly (to the second!) 90 minutes into the show. People booed and left feeling ripped off.
Maybe Van was having an off night. Still, as a fan of Moondance and Astral Weeks, it was a tough show. Maybe it was naïve to hope to hear “Madame George” or “Everyone,” but to only get “Moondance” and then a bunch of songs I wasn’t crazy about (including a country version of “Have I Told You Lately,” argh) made me wary of seeing artists whose output from the ‘60s and ‘70s is what made me a fan.
The Zombies’ show a couple of weeks later couldn’t have been more different. Colin Blundstone and Rod Argent, two of the original Zombies, are both older than Van Morrison, yet they put on an amazing show. Colin’s voice still sounds as beautiful and wistful as it did forty (!) years ago, and keyboardist and chief Zombies songwriter (along with bassist Chris White) Rod was full of energy, even if his ‘fro is looking a little grey.
They rounded out their lineup with Rod’s cousin on bass (ex-Kinks bassist Jim Rodford), Jim’s son Steve on drums and gun-for-hire guitarist Keith Airey, who—though a bit of a ham—was fun to watch.
I imagine there are a whole bunch of reasons why The Zombies were more excited to be in Vancouver than Van Morrison. They hadn’t played here since 1965 and they broke up in 1967, shortly after recording their masterpiece, Odessey and Oracle. They haven’t had the chance to get scornful of audiences and become curmudgeons.
A few songs into the show Rod announced they would play five songs off of Odessey and the crowd freaked out. Hearing “Care of Cell 44” live is not an experience I’ll soon forget. “This Will Be Our Year,” performed live only a few times since it was recorded forty years ago, was especially poignant. When they played “Time of the Season,” they brought down the house.
They also played a bunch of songs from Colin’s solo albums, and Argent, the band that Rod founded after The Zombies folded. The whole show was great and the band was incredibly gracious, fun and tight. If they come back to town in the next 42 years, you should definitely see them. If you want to see Van Morrison in action, rent The Last Waltz.