This gig marked a couple of firsts for me. It was my first visit to the Electric Ballroom and, despite my deep appreciation for the genre, it was the first time I’d seen any Rock Progressivo Italiano band, having previously missed PFM in Mestre in 1980 and missed them again in 2011 when they cancelled an appearance for a Manticore Records birthday party.
Goblin were originally named Cherry Five and, like many RPI bands, were influenced by Genesis and King Crimson. The band changed their name when they were asked to replace Giorgio Gaslini to write the score for the film Profondo Rosso and their success exceeded all expectations, selling more than a million copies and remaining in the Italian charts for 52 weeks.
The Electric Ballroom is a good venue, similar to Komedia in Brighton, with a decent auditorium. The ceiling is quite high and it must hold up to 1000 standing hairy 70s refugees, though it once had a capacity of 2000 in a former guise. There are ample bar facilities and it has been used as a rehearsal room for some big bands. I deliberately stood close to the stage to take photos rather than stand 10m back by the sound desk. The one minor issue I had with the event was that a support artist seemed to have been added at the last minute, Dylan Carlson of the drone doom rock band Earth and he was awful. His set consisted of about 6 songs which sounded very similar; his amp was cranked up to 11 and he managed some minor variations on one slow riff, aided by lots of distortion and feedback. He looked as though he was well into his 60s but he's actually nine years younger than me! After each of his songs a few members of the audience applauded ironically, bemused by the nightmarish noise he created.
Fortunately, Goblin didn't disappoint. I'd listened to my Cherry Five CD and my only Goblin CD (Suspiria) on the morning of the gig and though they didn't do any of the Cherry Five material (on the jazz rock side of prog) they did a blistering rendition of Suspiria, including audience participation on the La-la-la-la-la-la-la-lah nursery rhyme-style vocals. Claudio Simonetti proved to have a good rapport with the crowd and the whole bandstarted by taking iPhone photos of the audience before kicking off with a couple of tracks from Roller (which I must buy when I'm back in Italy) and I wondered how many of the audience were there because Goblin are prog, and how many were there because they were Dario Argento horror film fans. It soon became obvious that there were a great many people there who knew the material far better than me, even though getting your hands on Goblin music wasn’t so very easy until recently. This version of Goblin was formed of members of Goblin-projects, New Goblin and Daemonia. Bassist Federico Amorosi could have stepped from a Dolce e Gabbana advert; guitarist Bruno Previtali played bass for New Goblin and, from where I was standing mostly played crunchy and sonically indistinct parts (though it wouldn’t have sounded anywhere near as good if he’d not been there); drummer Titta Tani was a little obscured on the cramped stage but was solid throughout. Original member Claudio Simonetti was the undoubted star with his three tier keyboard stand well placed towards the front of the stage. His sound patches were really authentic analogue 70s-sounding with a beautiful Moog sound for the lead parts and he used a number of midi triggers which helped provide a fairly accurate rendition of the original material. The lighting rig was pretty poor but there were back projections of scenes from Dario Argento and George Romero movies, some of which weren't quite in synch with the the music. The music itself was selected from the entire Goblin back catalogue, Profundo Rosso, Roller, Suspiria, Zombi, Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark, Tenebrae and Non Ho Sonno. My personal favourites were Roller, Goblin, Phenomena, Zombi and of course Suspiria, but the biggest cheer greeted the announcement, made using a vocoder, for Tenebrae. I found this particular track a little too mechanical, too computerised for my taste because I’ve never been a fan of the vocoder, but it was hardly a damper on the evening; the encore of Demons was also really good.
As firsts go, this was a successful event. I liked the venue and I loved the Italian prog. I picked up a copy of New Goblin Live in Roma from the merchandise stand because they didn’t have copies of the two CDs I’d really have liked, Roller and Profundo Rosso. Still, an upcoming trip to Genoa in May might prove more fruitful. I’d be happy to go and see Goblin again but I hope I don’t have to wait another five years before they return to the UK.