Goblin are well known throughout the horror community for their sterling work over the years; for instance adding atmosphere in spades to the work of the Dario Argento in the 1970s and 80s. Suspiria, Deep Red and Phenomena are among the films from which the music of Goblin became just as instrinct to atmosphere, as the glorious colour palettes, imaginative death scenes and incoherent dream like logic; elements that Argento made his trademarks in his glory years. The haunting, incessant ‘la’s’ of the main Suspiria theme are as simple as they are creepy. As is so often the case, the original line up that made those soundtracks is long gone, due to various inter band fractions. However, keyboardist Claudio Simonetti is now touring as ‘Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin’, along with Bruno Previtali on guitar and Titta Tani on drums, playing the scores to some of his best known films while the picture in question plays in the background. It’s not a new concept, I myself saw a folk band doing something similar with The Wicker Man a few years ago, but it’s an idea, that for the most part, is very effective and enjoyable.
The band played a rare UK date at The Gorilla in Manchester on May 11th (which seems ever rarer now, considering they recently cancelled a London gig, their only other UK date this year) playing against a backdrop of George A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead; the European Dario Argento edit, which Goblin (credited as The Goblins) provided the soundtrack for. The Romero edit utilised some Goblin tracks, but mostly used stock music for his version (as an aside, it sometimes seems like there are more versions of Dawn of the Dead than there are Blade Runner). It was a very good choice of film, the gig was originally scheduled in November last year and the film to be shown was Deep Red, which as much as I adore, the film and soundtrack, it is indisputable that Dawn of the Dead is the better known title, and therefore one that would bring in the widest audience. As expected, although the 600 capacity venue wasn’t full to bursting, a very sizable crowd did gather to watch the show (and they were certainly fans, as they managed to raid the merchandise stall most successfully before we could get anywhere near it!).
I will admit now, I don’t know a vast amount about music, the theory or the playing of, although I am reliably informed by my gig companion that the prog. rock Goblin typically play uses non-standard time signatures and to perform it correctly the musicians must be very technically proficient at their craft. I do, however, know what I enjoy, and evokes feeling in me, and watching Dawn of the Dead on the big screen as skilled musicians gave it their all live, feeding off the energy of the crowd, was certainly an experience I’m very glad I had. The film itself is obviously brilliant, no matter what version one is watching. The fact that many times during the show the music score drowned out the dialogue just made me want to watch the film again. This is not a complaint by the way, but certainly a display of how good the film is, regardless of its soundtrack. However, the soundtrack certainly heightens the experience, at least here it really did. The band, led by Claudio Simonetti, were tight, focused and clearly enjoying what they are doing. An important factor, given Claudio Simonetti must have played this music so many times throughout his career, but he has an infectious enthusiasm that belies his 64 years.
Watching such a show with like-minded fans was a blessing. Any crowd that cheers at the first sight of Hari Krishna zombie, laughing at some of the lamer antics of Flyboy, is a good crowd indeed. Gratifyingly, there was also a lack of camera phones held aloft during the course of the gig, there were some, naturally (sadly, but naturally), but for the most part it was nice to be at gig with people whose main goal was just to experience the show – at this stage in the technology game it’s frankly amazing I haven’t made anyone eat their own iPhone yet in the course of gigs and films I have seen in recent years.
The show closed with a quick run through of a couple of Goblin’s greatest scores; featuring Lamberto Bava’s Demons and Argento’s Phenomena. The band rapidly played through the highlights of each score while clips from the films played on the screen. Sadly there was no showing for Suspiria and Deep Red which in my mind would have topped the evening off perfectly, but still a very entertaining and invigorating way to end the performance. All in all it was a rare chance to see something awesome, which is a chance that should always be grabbed. And yes, when we got home one of the first things we did was pop Dawn of the Dead into the DVD player.