Goblin - Barbican Hall
21st February 2015
Goblin’s 2015 appearance at the Barbican, performing the live soundtrack to a screening of Dario Argento’s horror masterpiece Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) was to mark the occasion of the film’s fortieth anniversary.
I didn’t know how performing the live score would work but Claudio Simonetti revealed in an interview that there were times, the longest of which lasted about 20 minutes, when the band wasn’t required to play. During these pauses, they all sat quite still at their instruments: Simonetti at his keyboards; Titta Tani at his drums and percussion (including gong and timpani); Bruno Previtali with his guitars; and Federico Amorosi with his sunburst-finish Rickenbacker bass.
The Barbican screening was dubbed in English and though I like my foreign films in their original language, subtitles wouldn’t have worked as I shifted focus from Goblin to the film and back again. Starring David Hemmings as jazz pianist Marcus Daly who befriends a psychic medium who gets murdered, the film follows Daly’s investigation into a series of subsequent, related murders and culminates in a confrontation with the mysterious murderer, the mother of his alcoholic friend Carlo, in which he gets injured with a blow from a meat cleaver but manages to cause the gruesome demise of the murderer when her necklace gets caught in the grille of an old-fashioned lift. Daly calls the lift which subsequently pulls on the necklace and beheads her. This final scene provoked an outburst of laughter from the audience; the horror is dated and doesn’t hold much shock value. In fact, there’s a psychedelic vibe to the film; the blood looks like red paint, the narrative jumps inexplicably and the setting, in Turin where much of the filming took place, included some modernist architecture reminiscent of the Barbican with its mix of residential and leisure facilities. Suspense was generated by hiding the identity of the murderer and through the use of a child’s lullaby, played on a tape recorder by the murderer before the crimes were carried out.
The film was critically acclaimed and became an international success. The soundtrack, originally put together in ten days after Simonetti’s band Cherry Five were asked to step in following a disagreement between director Argento and original composer Giorgio Gaslini, fits the idiom incredibly well. This may come as a bit of a surprise when you consider that Cherry Five were influenced by King Crimson and Genesis and played extended compositions on the jazzy side of prog. In keeping with the nature of the giallo film genre, they changed their name to Goblin and the success of the Profondo Rosso film was replicated by the soundtrack which has sold over a million copies.
The live score stuck fairly faithfully to the original. Whereas the original recording utilised church organ and harpsichord, Simonetti reproduced the analogue sounds with great precision and his Moog playing was absolutely brilliant. The sound was balanced and clear, including the guitar harmonics and trebly bass. Much of the material is quite jazzy and at other times a Keith Emerson influence is evident, with hints of ELP’s interpretation of Ginastera’s Toccata. I think that Mad Puppet bears more than a passing resemblance to the section on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells that leads up to Vivian Stanshall’s spoken piece.
The performance was split with a twenty minute intermission but following the closing credit sequence the band remained on stage and played some more of their soundtrack material, Demoni, Zombi, Suspiria, Tenebre and Phenomena. This was all very well received by the audience and I even liked the version of Tenebre finding the vocoder parts less grating than when I’d heard it last year. Suspiria, from 1977, is regarded as being the real Goblin sound where it became impossible to hear their original prog influences in the music.
This was an enjoyable gig made more special by celebrating the 40th anniversary of Profondo Rosso.