By MIKE CHAIKEN
Time can be cruel to singers.
With the passing years, through the process of aging or through mistreatment, a singer’s voice in his/ her later years can be a mere shadow of itself.
There are many rockers of Colin Blunstone’s age who have had to rework their entire repertoire—either by transposing the songs to lower keys or eliminating them from their set lists— as they no longer can reach the high notes or low notes of their heyday.
But Blunstone, the lead singer of the Zombies, proved to be a bit of a Dorian Gray during his performance at Bridge Street Live in Collinsville on Friday. His voice, 53 years after he began singing, is still as youthful as ever. During his evening before an appreciative crowd, Blunstone’s voice reached high notes that singers in their 20s would be envious of. And high or low, there was still a power behind his vocals.
That’s not to say his voice hasn’t changed at all since he was a mere 18 years old. Out of curiosity, I tracked down a performance of The Zombies when Blunstone was a fresh-scrubbed kid out of the U.K. The vocals then definitely reflected his age and perhaps were a bit wobbly due to his then-teenage youth.
However, five decades later, Blunstone is surely a master of an instrument that is limber and lithe.
Although, Blunstone is best known as the vocalist for The Zombies, this solo jaunt finds him displaying his other career as a solo performer. Yes, he did perform The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There,” both of which received standing ovations from the audience. But, most of the material was drawn from his new album (in the U.S.) “On The Air tonight” and from moments throughout his non-Zombies career.
What was interesting in this “Deep Tracks” approach to his set list, with many of the songs quite obscure in the U.S., is how well the approach worked and how well it held my attention. Although some of the songs I had never heard before, I wanted to hear them again. When I got home, I wanted to backtrack through Blunstone’s career and discover the songs and the songs that surrounded them on the original albums. And that’s exactly what a concert should do.
Another appeal of the show was Blunstone’s charming demeanor on stage. He chatted with the audience, weaving tales about some of the songs so we gained some familiarity in our consciousness. His banter made it feel like we were watching an old friend perform at a backyard party.
Watching Blunstone, in many ways, is like catching a moment in history. After all, The Zombies were one of the highlights of the British Invasion in the 1960s and their music still holds appeal today.
But Blunstone gave proof that he is very much a vibrant artist who still has much to say in 2014 even as we enjoy his past glories.
Opening for Blunstone was a New York singer, by way of Birmingham, U.K., by the name of Edward Rogers. He was a good match for Blunstone. Like the headliner, he had an enchanting way of telling a story, either with his between song-patter or within the songs themselves.
To me, Rogers felt in tune with some of the singers that arose alongside the punk music scene of England in the 1970s. Artists like early Elvis Costello, as well as Wreckless Eric, Ian Dury, and the crew at Stiff Records (pull out your Wikipedia) stepped forward during that creative outburst in music history. And Rogers definitely takes a page out of their book, albeit from the point of view of a man who has moved beyond that of an angry young man in his 20s.
Rogers definitely caught my ears. And he definitely caught the audience’s as well as the new fans lined up after the show to buy advance copies of his upcoming album, “Kaye,” which is his tribute to singer songwriter Kevin Ayers (formerly of the Soft Machine), who passed away last year.
I give the evening with Colin Blunstone at Bridge Street Live in Collinsville on May 9 four out of four stars.
By MIKE CHAIKEN