Goblin The Opera House, Toronto ON, October 11

Goblin The Opera House, Toronto ON, October 11
Photo: Adam Wills
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There was a time when most Goblin fans felt the possibility of seeing the mighty Italian prog rock wizards play live was but a fantasy as far-fetched as some of the films they've scored. But with the recent surge in popularity with their music as well as horror soundtracks (see Death Waltz Recording Company, who just issued a new Goblin tour EP), the now 41-year-old band have found a new lease on life.

Led by original members Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante, along with Maurizio Guarini (who joined in 1975 just after they became Goblin), this current tour marks their first ever in North America. Needless to say, this was an experience some have been waiting most of their lives for.

In true spirit, Goblin came out to a whimsical dancer, who would make multiple appearances throughout. Besides that, there wasn't much to look at at first, as the men — some in their 60s — were rockin' out underneath some cheesy lighting. But a few songs in they dug into classic album Roller, jamming through "Dr. Frankenstein" and "Roller" with robot-like precision, and it was easy to get sucked in. ("Goblin," also from the album, made a later appearance.) "E Suono Rock" was heavy as shit, as a duelling Simonetti and Guarini taught a synth clinic.

Finally, with "Non Ho Sonno" they introduced some footage from the film of the same name. This added a whole other, highly desirable visual element to accompany the creeping prog jams. And then Guarini announced they'd delve into something more "soundtrackish," which caused heads to explode and devil horns to flick.

For "L'alba dei Morti Viventi / Zombi," they threw a Dawn of the Dead montage up on the screen, which prompted one long-hair to jump on stage and portray a walking corpse. At first it seemed like part of the show, as he hugged Morante and pretended to gnaw on smiling bassist Bruno Previtali's neck, but amusingly enough, it was unplanned. Simonetti blew the surprise of the iconic "Suspiria" by asking fans to sing along to the melody, but having the dancer come back and flow around the stage was a nice homage to the legendary horror flick. Hearing them recreate the song to code in a live setting was an unforgettable experience.

Simonetti had some fun with his vocoder, addressing the crowd for a good couple of minutes before they launched into their pulsating banger, "Tenebre," which is hard to hear these days without thinking of it as a Justice sample. Two more classics, "Phenomena" (with viz of Jennifer Connelly and all those bugs, of course) and "Profondo Rossi," ended the set on a major high.

Coming back for an encore that consisted of the glammy "Zarazotom," Simonetti teased a cover of Van Halen's "Jump," which had it continued could have been both incredible and baffling. Still, Goblin gave all the horror and prog nuts a show to remember. Had they put a little more thought into the presentation, to make it look as amazing as it sounded — i.e., perform behind a screen of Argento montages, or at least reducing the lighting on the screens so that Sarah's infamous barbed wire demise in Suspiria had a little more sting — Goblin would have had everyone buying up their pricey merch. Instead, it was the sonic booming and veteran prowess of these Italian legends that will be remembered most, which for some fans was exactly what they hoped for.