all photos: Katherine Gaines
The 9:30 Club hosted a prog-rock extravaganza Friday evening, as Italy’s Goblin, a band most known for scoring horror films in the 1970s, performed on the second leg of their first-ever North American tour featuring several original members.
Zombi, a two-man progressive space-rock group heavily influenced by Goblin, opened the show, hitting the stage at the early time at 6:15. Compared to the atmospheric noodling of their Italian forefathers, the Pittsburgh duo’s sound, purely instrumental and heavily inclusive of synthesizers and sequencers, was kinder to live performance than songs designed to accent a film. Indeed, Zombi’s music is better suited toward a dystopian heist than fleeing the undead.
Goblin, featuring four-fifths of their vintage line-up, sounded spry and eager to revel in their four decades of making weird music. Guitarist Massimo Morante was the most fanciful dressed of the five men, clad in a bandana and flowing garb that made him look like the long-lost cousin of Bruce Springsteen’s Steven Van Zandt.
To spruce up the performance, several songs featured an interpretative dancer who added pointe work and In Living Color-esque fly girl movements while the older Italian gentlemen worked through their material. I grew up listening to this genre of music with my father, and while I didn’t hear Goblin until later in life, the group brought the deep, deep proggy grooves that could satisfy huge Jethro Tull or Emerson, Lake and Palmer fans. It also wouldn’t be a true prog concert without a gratuitous drum solo, and it sure enough came during their self-titled song.
Highlights of their nearly two-hour set include the wiry stomp of “Roller” and the chilling staccato of the theme from Zombi, which featured the anonymous dancer dressed up as a member of the walking dead (The dancing dead?) who jerked around while clad in rags and muddy face paint. Her presence was far more apropos when the quartet played the haunting theme from the horror-ballet film Suspiria, arguably the group’s most well known composition.
This was a show for die-hard prog rock fans. While taking notes during the show, I eavesdropped on a guy trying to explain Goblin’s significance to his date. I’m not sure that taking a girl to see aging Italian men make strange, mostly instrumental music at 8 pm on a Friday night is the best example of a first date or the worst example of a first date, but I sure hope they found a love connection.