It was a was a beautiful spring evening in Nashville, Tennessee and I was sitting on City Winery’s upper deck admiring the skyline and watching the valet line get longer.
Everyone was headed inside with a common purpose; to see the hidden gem of the British Invasion, The Zombies, and singer-song writer Bruce Sudano.
City Winery is a high end dining experience that combines diner, wine, and concerts. It is classy but laid back, and so much more intimate than a seated concert hall. I double checked my gear and headed down to my reserved table to wait for the show. As I was being seated I immediately regretted eating before arriving. Every member of the wait staff seemed to be carrying their best smelling dish right by my table; convincing me that I was hungry when I had just eaten. I decided to order truffle fries and a peach tea. As I finished my last bite, as if on cue, Bruce Sudano stepped out on stage.
You may not recognize his name but his songs have been covered by musical greats such as Michael and Jermaine Jackson, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and Robert Palmer. If you were alive and aware to popular music in 1979 you should recognize his hit song Bad Girls that was sang by his then girlfriend, Donna Summers. They married the next year after having dated for three years. They wrote songs, they performed together; he managed her career, and raised their children together. After their youngest daughter graduated from high school, Donna encouraged Bruce to go out and be a full time musician again.
With his wife’s untimely passing Bruce turned to songwriting as a way of expressing his mourning. The outlet turned out the 2014 album, With Angels on a Carousel, which is about his experience in dealing with his wife’s illness and passing. In 2015 he recorded the Burbank Sessions which has a feeling that he is sitting in someone’s living room performing pouring his soul out.
Even though he never mentioned who his wife was he told us beautiful back stories to some of his songs. In one story he told of how he began writing a song about his parent’s divorce to help him cope with that reality. His wife suggested the lyrics “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men never put mommy and daddy back together again” and it stuck. Later she was scheduled to perform one of her own songs on the Tonight Show but decided to sing Bruce’s song, Starting Over Again, about his parents. After the performance, Dolly Parton’s management called him and asked for the song. He obliged and the song went on to be #1 on the US country charts in 1980.
There is a whole lot of history to be discovered in this little bit of information but I will let you uncover it yourself. What you need to know is that if you like a your music to have a story, meaning, power, and love; if you like acoustic guitars and a distinct voice filled with soul stirring emotion, you need to go see Bruce Sudano. I enjoyed his whole set and his new song about society’s behavior in this digital world, Charade, is stuck in my mind.
Bruce wrapped up his set and The Zombies entered the stage.
Formed in 1962 outside of London in St. Albans, The Zombies were originally called the Mustangs. After figuring out there were a lot of bands with the same name, original bass player Paul Arnold suggested the gruesome and memorable name change; leaving his mark on the group before losing interest in the band and pursing a more serious job as a physician. No one is sure where he got the name from since it was before Night of the Living Dead and the zombie apocalypse craze, but the name stuck. They have broken up a few times and pursued their solo careers, but they always seem to find themselves performing together again.
With original members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, The Zombies continue to tour Europe and US with former Kinks member Jim Rodford on Bass and vocals, Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums, and the talented Tom Toomey on guitar and vocals.
They opened the show with their 1965 song I Love You. From the moment Colin belted out, “And I Don’t Know What to Say” with clarity and power, I was impressed. They took us back to some of the music that influenced them and played their cover of Solomon Burke’s Can’t Nobody Love you, Goin out of My Head; originally recorded by Little Anthony and The Imperials, and later their mash up of Smokey Robinson’s You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me and Sam Cook’s Bring it on Home to Me from their Begin Here album.
They gave us a taste of their new music from their 6th album, Still Got That Hunger, released in October 2015. Edge of the Rainbow is one of those happy, moving songs where all the right notes fall in all the right places. The bluesy tune Moving On is about learning to accept life as it comes with no apologies and it had everyone at toe tapping attention.
The crowd was very excited to hear their hit songs, Time of the Season and Tell her No. Colin’s voice was a little deeper than everyone remembered but not much and you could still hear the very distinct sound he delivered in his youth. As the band began playing Hold your Head Up the crowd broke glow sticks that the Club Z- West of the Pond Facebook fan club passed around and shook them to the beat. It really added to the environment. They closed the show with an unforgettable version of She’s not There. Rod Argent was smoking on the keys and the bands harmony was tight. For an encore they encouraged the audience to participate, in which they were happy to do, and played the rock anthem God Gave Rock and Roll to You.
The Zombies are immersed in history and one thing, among many, that makes this line up special is that Rod is the younger cousin of Jim. And there is even more back story there. In the beginning, Rod wanted Jim to join the group as the bass player. Jim was already playing with a well-known local band, The Bluetones, and turned down the offer. However, he supported his cousin and offered his help in forming the group. The Bluetones even lent their equipment to them so the band could practice. Jim and Rod went on to form another group in 1969, Argent, which turned out the hit “Hold your head up”. Coming full circle from 1962 to 2016, fans are really experiencing something very unique at The Zombies concerts.
They will be headed to the UK to perform at several festivals this summer. They will kick off their summer UK tour at The Lunar Festival in West Midlands and will continue their tour making stops in Southhampton, Chipping Norton, Hampton Hill, and Maidstone before heading to Belgium and then back to the US for the fall. Be sure to check their dates and then your calendar; this is a show of skill, talent, and nostalgia that you do not want to miss.