Midway through their 2019 Tour of America, Claudio Simonetti's Goblin rolled into Los Angeles on Monday, filling The Palace Theatre with pulverizing renditions of the keyboardist's work, including faithful renditions of classic tracks, revised arrangements of familiar tunes, and all-new material from his recent album. Though the use of the Goblin brand name is somewhat questionable (Simonetti is the only founding member in this version of the group, which is essentially his solo project), the quality of the live performances erased any doubts about legitimacy, bringing the Goblin catalog to life with invigorating freshness.
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin 2019 Tour Review: Deep Red
The concert began with the band performing Goblin's score for Dario Argento's horror-thriller Deep Red in synch with the film, projected overhead from a file on Simonetti's Mac Book. Simonetti identified this as the "American" version of the film; though it was not quite the cut released to U.S. theatres in 1975, it was the shorter version, short of twenty minutes of dialogue scenes that were never dubbed into English for distribution outside Italy. The choice was appropriate, because it's in the nature of live-to-film concerts that the musicians sit silently during non-musical sequences; the longer, Italian version of the film would have exacerbated this situation.
Nevertheless, Deep Red is a slightly odd choice for this treatment. Goblin replaced original composer Giorgio Gaslini, some of whose music remains on the soundtrack (mostly diegetic bits, such as the taped lullaby the killer plays as a leitmotiv to the murders). Simonetti and his band mates did not perform these cues, reserving their efforts for the inspired prog-rock tracks that Goblin supplied, which alternate between mesmerizing and frantic: rampant drums, blistering guitar solos, complex bass lines, overwhelming organ chords, and hypnotic keyboard riffs.
The music hewed closely to the original arrangements but with a volume and intensity appropriate for a live concert. The backup band (Bruno Previtali on guitar, Cecilia Nappo on bass, and Federico Maragoni on drums) wee fully up to the challenge, and Simonetti handled the difficult keyboard parts with practiced ease.
One difficulty inherent in the performance is that the music as heard in the film is heavily edited, cutting abruptly in and out to match scene transitions. Miraculously, Simonetti's Goblin managed to make musical sense of these sudden starts and stops, bringing the cues to conclusions that sounded finished, not just cut off. The band's only opportunity to stretch out came during the end credits, when they brought the main title theme to an energetic crescendo instead of the fade out heard on the actual soundtrack.
In general, we're a bit dubious about live-to-film concerts, whether rock or orchestral (see our Jurassic Park in Concert review). It's a bit frustrating to sit through a 100-minute feature film to hear approximately thirty minutes of live music, but any excuse is a good excuse to see a genre classic like Deep Red on the big screen with an appreciative audience. (By the way, the visual and audio quality of the film was excellent - much better than the beaten up 35mm prints that used to circulate in revival theatres - but the image dropped out at semi-regular intervals when Simonetti's Mac Book threatened to go into sleep mode).
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin 2019 Tour Review: Greatest Hits & New Material
Simonetti followed up Deep Red with a set of eleven tracks culled from his work with Goblin and as a solo artist. Up first was "Brain Zero One" from his new album, The Devil Is Back, which begins with a delicate piano melody played over a synthesized bass line. Remarkably, even after the band kicks in to provide an energetic hard-rock back drop, the piano retains its ethereal quality floating over the turbulence below. It was a beautiful performance of a great instrumental, proving that Simonetti's remains at the peak of his abilities as a composer and performer.
Next up was the main title from one of Simonetti's solo soundtrack scores, Demons (1985). The original track does rank not among his best work; it was a bit too trendy in its use of '80s cliches like sound samples and simple, almost disco-ish rhythms. Fortunately, the new arrangement takes the best bits and revs them up, transforming the dated original into a powerhouse live performance piece.
This set the tone for the rest of the set - reinvigorating old tracks with new arrangements that gave the musicians room to shine, adding solos and flourishes with a fast-paced hard-rock idiom while retaining the complexities of the prog-rock originals. The band tore through Goblin's soundtrack and album catalog, performing title tracks from Roller, Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, Tenebre, and another track from The Devil Is Back, "Angues Dei."
There was a playfulness on view, with Simonetti teasing the audience with the famous vocoder effect from Tenebre, pretending he was going to sing "On the Road Again" before launching into the actual performance. He preceded solo theme for the Phenomena soundtrack with a solo piano version that segued into a marvelous full rendition.
The only minor drawback was the absence of a vocalist. Simonetti's work with and without Goblin is almost exclusively instrumental, but some pieces feature wordless vocals. Simonetti supplied the whispered chanting to "Suspiria," but the memorable voice parts for "Phenomena" and "E Suono Rock" (from IlFantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark) were synthesized, either played by hand or sequenced in time with the live performance.
The entire set was accompanied by overhead visuals: movie montages to support the soundtrack work and computer-generated imagery for the non-soundtrack music.
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin 2019 Tour Review: Conclusion
Now in his 60s, Claudio Simonetti displays skills honed from decades of experience, but he still performs with the enthusiasm of a much younger man, aided by backup musicians who add a harder, contemporary edge to his classic compositions. Their performance at the Palace on Monday was virtually flawless; the arrangements are so different that Simonetti's Goblin is worth checking out even if you have seen the other version of Goblin (featuring four key members from the group's classic lineup) in recent years. The only thing that could have made the concert better would have been the inclusion of even more material from The Devil Is Back, which is strong enough to stand comfortably beside the best of Simonetti's classic work.
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin at the Palace Theatre: Ratings
The live performance of music from Deep Red was excellent, but it left the musicians sitting silently for much of the running time. The set that followed gave the musicians their chance to rock the house to perfection.
Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin continues its 2019 North American tour through October 19. Get more information and find tickets here: tonedeaftouring.com/goblin.
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin 2019 Tour Review: Set List
Below is a list of instrumentals performed on September 30 at the Palace Theatre after the performance of the Deep Red soundtrack:
- Brain Zero One from the album The Devil is Back
- Main Title from the film Demons
- Title track from the album Roller
- E Suono Rock ("And Rock Sound") from the album IlFantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark
- Main Title from the film Dawn of the Dead (1978)
- Zombi from Dawn of the Dead
- Zaratozom ("Shriek") from Dawn of the Dead
- Agnus Dei from The Devil is Back
- Main Title from the film Suspiria
- Main Title from the film Tenebre, preceded by brief vamp
- Main Title from the film Phenomena, preceded by solo piano version
Claudio Simonetti's Goblin 2019 Tour: Remaining Dates
- 10/2: Portland, OR @ Hollywood Theatre
- 10/3: Vancouver, BC @ Rio Theatre
- 10/4: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
- 10/7: Denver, CO @ The Oriental Theatre
- 10/8: Kansas City, MO @ Armour Theatre
- 10/9: Kansas City, MO @ Armour Theatre
- 10/10: Minneapolis, MN @ The Fitzgerald Theatre
- 10/11: Milwaukee, WI @ Oriental Theatre
- 10/13: Chicago, IL @ Reggies Rock Club
- 10/14: Detroit, MI @ Senate Theatre
- 10/15: Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls
- 10/16: Syracuse, NY @ The Palace Theatre
- 10/17: Montreal, QC @ Theatre Fairmount
- 10/18: Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall
- 10/19: Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage