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Zed, then and now. Image by Tina Tiller.
Zed, then and now. Image by Tina Tiller.

Pop CultureDecember 12, 2023

What happens at a Zed reunion show? 

Zed, then and now. Image by Tina Tiller.
Zed, then and now. Image by Tina Tiller.

Two decades since their live show last set her soul on fire, Alex Casey attends one of the final nights of Zed’s 2023 reunion tour.

Yes, Zed opened with Renegade Fighter. Yes, the Gen X and millennial crowd looked like extras in the least athletic Rebel Sport ad of all time. But, then again, who can really blame us for being a bit slow and tired? It was nearly 10.30pm and it had been over two decades since we were first lured in by that deceptive twinkly intro. The number of grey hairs and crisp checked shirts in the mosh highlighted just how much time had marched on since white dreadlocks were in vogue.

Frighteningly, Zed themselves didn’t appear to have changed at all (aside from the absence of dreads). Nathan King could have stepped right out of the mid-2000s with his tight black jeans, sweatbands and neon lip printed T-shirt, still giving as much frenetic, wide-eyed energy as he committed to the Renegade Fighter video 23 years ago. I couldn’t get close enough to see if Ben Campbell still had his labret piercing but, spiritually, it was there. 

It was one of the final nights of Zed’s Future You reunion tour at The Church in Ōtautahi, and approximately 22 years since my Dad took me to see them perform at the Summer Hummer in Masterton at the age of 10. I texted to ask if he remembered anything about the show. “Just going no real detailz see what I did there!” he replied, unhelpfully. My enduring memory is me, on tiptoes, screaming “PLAY ‘OH! DAISY’” from roughly 5000km away from the stage. 

Needless to say, The Church was much smaller than the 10,000 strong crowd at Queen Elizabeth Park in 2001. Still, it was totally sold out, the crowd complete with boisterous lads giving each other wet willies and apologetic ladies shimmying through to get to the awkwardly placed toilet right by the side of the stage. “Oh man, what a treat,” beamed Nathan King. “Hometown, packed house, I couldn’t be a happier man. This is ‘Starlight’.” 

From that Hot Chick moment came a run of hits including ‘She Glows’, ‘Come on Down’ and ‘Oh! Daisy’ (still good). “Tonight you have our permission to just go back to when you were 18 years old,” said King at one point. “Act like a teenager again, because that’s what we’re doing.” There’s bound to be some snobbishness out there about the rise of the nostalgia-wringing reunion tour circuit, but I challenge anyone not to well up in a room of balding blokes belting out ‘Hard to Find Her’. 

They played a few new songs, but there was one remaining hit that everyone was hanging out for. Zed made us wait, and wait, and wait for ‘Glorafilia’, not unlike the titular character during her morning routine. Before that came some truly surprising numbers. They did a cover of ‘She’s a Mod’ in a heartfelt tribute to their manager Ray Columbus. Then, Ben Campbell brought his sister Beth out to sing Atlas’ ‘Crawl’ (and also sing her ‘Happy Birthday’, aka opportunity to well up #2). 

But it was the encore that contained the most curious choice of all – two more covers, of Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex on Fire’ and Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. This felt like an avant garde move for an encore (even more so given they didn’t play ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ – a Zed cover that actually charted) but, then again, King did warn us they were channelling their teenage selves for the occasion. The crowd didn’t mind and, based on my singing voice in the videos, neither did I. 

All was forgiven when ‘Glorafilia’ finally arrived, King standing back from the microphone, chuffed, for what was surely the loudest indoor singalong of a song named after a needlepoint book in human history. Towards the end of ‘Glorafilia’ they couldn’t resist one last teenage flourish, mixing in a bit of U2’s ‘With or Without You’, just because they could. 

Who knows what Zed will be capable of by their next nostalgia-filled tour in 2044 but I, for one, will be there with ribbons in my grey, grey hair. 

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