I’ve been going to concerts for close to 30 years, and I’ve seen a lot of shows in that span of time. I’ll admit to often being a little blasé about concerts: I don’t get the same thrill of seeing artists I love walk on stage since I’ve seen most of my idols multiple times, and know a lot about the logistics of putting a concert together. So for a lot of reasons, the concert experience is not as magical as it used to be.
Goblin is currently on their first North American tour ever in 40 years. Formed in Italy in the 70’s, their main claim to fame is writing the score to many of the films of italian director Dario Argento. Much like the collaboration between Steven Spielberg and John Williams, Goblin came to define the sound of an Argento movie. When the director was asked to re-cut George Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead for the European market (it’s known as Zombi over there), he threw out all the library music Romero had used and comissioned Goblin to create a new score. The end result is that this version has the feel of an Argento movie, thanks to the music.
The opening act on this tour is Secret Chiefs 3, a loose collective of projects built around former Faith No More/Mr Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance. Their highly experimental music runs a wide gamut of influences and pretty much defies all attempts at categorization. Dressed in flowing white robes (except for Spruance in black), the musicians look like part mad scientists, part demented monks. Come to think of it, that’s an apt way of describing their music. Spruance’s goatee makes him look like the brain child of Rasputin and Frank Zappa, and that too is a good way of describing the complex tunes that seamlessly go from one genre to another while often building themselves up to a cabalistic frenzy. Their music veered from rock to persian to electronic to metal to irish to, well, so many things. And the most amazing thing about it is that it all made sense. They were very well welcomed by the crowd, especially the set closer, a fantastic cover of the Main Theme to the movie Exodus by Ernest Gold. Their set also included an appropriate cover of the theme to John Carpenter’s Halloween, although that one was barely recognizable after being processed through the band’s sensibilities. Kudos to the band for making such an impact with such complicated music.
The crowd was ready for Goblin when the italian quintet took to the stage. The band is sometimes billed as New Goblin but all material promoting this show listed them as Goblin. Featuring founding members Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante, in addition to long time keyboardist Maurizio Guarini (he joined the band in 1975), this lineup certainly has a legitimate claim to the name. The first half of the set was mainly devoted to the Roller and Back to the Goblin albums. The band was tight and precise, and they seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously. The songs took on a new life on stage, and made it clear that for all their soundtrack notoriety, the band’s music doesn’t need visuals to hold its own. The second half was devoted to their film music, with shots from the respective movies being shown on a screen. A girl played the part of a zombie for the Zombi segment, and a ballerina for the haunting theme to Suspiria, adding the only trait of theatrics in the show. Again, the music took on a more organic feel in this less polished state, and despite some of the more dated sounds and techniques used (like the vocoding in Tenebre), the songs felt more alive than ever. Prog rock often feels like music in search of a movie (hence the usual array of video projections at prog shows), so Goblin’s cinematic endeavours are a natural match.
I felt privileged to witness a Goblin performance. In the end, they occupy a pretty narrow niche (70’s italian prog rock horror soundtracks isn’t exactly mainstream, and Argento’s movies are cult items), but they were welcomed by a dedicated fan base who knew their material very well. Highlights for me were the themes to Tenebre and Profundo Rosso and the self-titled track Goblin, but really the entire set was sharp, perfectly executed and compelling. Definitely a unique event!
- Magic Thriller
- Mad Puppet
- Dr. Frankenstein
- E Suono Rock
- Non Ho Sonno
- Death Farm
- L’alba dei Morti Viventi / Zombi
- School At Night
- Profondo Rosso
- Goblin Adds More US Tour Dates! (dreadcentral.com)
- Goblin played their first-ever NYC show at Music Hall of Williamsburg (pics/setlist); play Webster Hall tonight (brooklynvegan.com)
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage