For the second time this year, Portland has snoozed on advanced tickets to an unmissable performance. First, U.K. grindcore gods Bolt Thrower sold out the Star Theater. And then, this past Saturday, Goblin, the Italian prog-rock behemoth turned titans of '70s giallo movie soundtracks, packed the Hawthorne Theater to the gills, with nary a scalper to be found lurking on the streets outside the building. The line to get in the building took half the length of Secret Chiefs 3’s opening set.
Secret Chiefs 3 haunted the stage clad in white robes. Led by former Mr Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance, the group touched on everything from metal to jazz to gamelan to surf-rock—the kitchen sink approach forged by Frank Zappa and perfected by John Zorn. Secret Chiefs do it very well, and the band is effortlessly tight. All in all, a great, progressive warm-up for a highly enthusiastic crowd.
After a brief change over—soundtracked by vintage King Crimson blasting through the house speakers—Goblin took the stage. This tour is its first time ever performing in the U.S. The band's experience and mastery was immediately apparent: Despite years of offstage drama, this version of the band, led by founding guitarist Massimo Morante and keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, was a joyous inferno on stage.
Following a brief bit of whirling from the band’s dancer, Goblin whet the crowd's appetite with “Magic Thriller,” from 2005's Back To the Goblin. Next up came a suite of songs from the Roller album before the band finally began to dig into its famous soundtrack work. Title tracks from Zombi, Suspiria, Tenebrae, Profondo Rosso came accompanied by projections from the films themselves. The final encore, “Zaratozom," a bit of horror-disco space-funk from the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack, received an ecstatic reaction from the crowd.
It’s difficult to keep track of all the reunions these days, and even harder to predict which will be accomplished with grace and taste, but Goblin's set was perfect. Massimo’s guitar sounded dirty, distorted and mean. Though both keyboard players used modern digital synths, the sounds they recreated were spot on. And the rhythm section, though younger than the rest of the band, were flawless and heavy.
Goblin kicked ass and clearly loved every minute of it. After 40 years of avoiding the US, the wait was worth it for fans and, apparently, the band itself: The guys on stage continually played with one hand while take cellphone pictures of the crowd with the other. When Claudio donned his headphone mic and vocoder to sing “Tenebrae” in a robotic voice, his joy matched that of the audience. And every original member of the band took time after the show to sign autographs and take photos with fans.