Daemonia in Tokyo, Japan
- Friday, October 25, 2002 -
I admit it, when it comes to the music of Goblin I'm totally biased. As a fan for more than 22 years, the hypnotic thumpity-thump of their tight beats has sent me into musical frenzies more often than I care to admit. But there is reason for my bias. The music is good; it is solid; it is bold. And the musicianship is topnotch. Goblin was also one of the bands that brought together the two genres I've held dear: rock and classic. Add to this a spattering of Jazz, a BIG connection to the horror genre, and, well, I'm the proverbial happy puppy.
Of all the so-called 70s progressive bands out there — the flashy ones that rely on endless races up and down the various musical scales — Goblin was the most musical. While the chops were there, musicality was first and foremost. Does it serve the song? Does it serve the musical theme? If not, more often than not, Goblin wouldn't go for the cheap “see what I can do” style prevalent to the genre.
With nearly 30 CDs in my “Goblin collection” (made up not only of Goblin, but Libra / Flea / Simonetti / Cherry Five, etc.), it has always been a dream to see Goblin live. But alas, they broke up just when I discovered them, Dawn of the Dead being their last real record (the ones after were reunions of sorts). Listening to Goblin's music and looking at photos from their shows in the 70s, with bubble machines, collarless embroidered V-neck shirts and fog machines like something out of a B/W Jack the Ripper film, I wondered how they could have transformed that brilliant studio sound to such a seemingly chaotic live stage.
While I'll never really know, I think I got a good idea what it probably was like when I saw Daemonia play at Ruido, a club in Tokyo's Harajuku section. Headed by Goblin keyboardist and co-songwriter Claudio Simonetti, Daemonia is a sort of Goblin's greatest hits band, performing a set liberally sprinkled with many of the classics of Simonetti's former group. But this is probably a tad insulting. Daemonia is more than this. They are a band that essentially is there to bring out the best of maestro Simonetti's compositions. And bring it out they do! The other members of the band, Bruno Previtalli on guitar, Fedrico Amorosi on bass, and Titta Tani on drums, are highly proficient musicians. Moreover, watching the show it is obvious that each feels honest passion for the music. Thus giving not the sense that they are merely fronting for a single artist (which would be the case if the band were called something tacky like “The Claudio Simonetti Band” or worse, those annoying ego trip that start with someone's name and ends with the word “project”) but that they are a band united by a music which all are bringing to life equally.
After taking to the stage, the evening began with a rendition of Goblin's “Dawn of the Dead”. Shorter than the recorded version, Simonetti only had time for one run through of the piece's famous keyboard melody. In fact, I'd say the song, given its somewhat monotonous and slow pound was more of a sound check than anything else. From there things picked up. The band followed this with the title track to “Demons” — very cool rendition!
From where I stood I could see that Simonetti worked off three keyboards, and many of the programmed sounds were true to the original recordings. Often, though, he would flavor a familiar tone with a new setting, such as on the Demon's title track. As one who is not a recording purist (i.e. people who want it to sound just like the record), it was enjoyable to hear pieces that while maintaining the feel of the original were presented in a new way.
There were so many great pieces played over the nearly two hour show, ones from Susperia, Tenebre, Dawn of the Dead, Profondo Rosso, Opera and Phenomena. There was even a brilliant piece penned by Simonetti's father, Enrico Simonetti, as well the themes from Halloween and The Exorcist. Each tune was played with enthusiasm and was crafted well to the four piece band sound. I never got a feeling that a song was lacking or thinned out as can be the case when studio efforts are done live. In fact, I was constantly surprised at how big and well managed the sound was. Kudos to the band's soundman for this. Also important was that the band's volume was perfect. Not too loud and not too soft, I walked out of the show without my ears ringing, a rarity for small venues. The warm up band before Daemonia was, unfortunately, of the loud is better variety. I had to plug my ears least after a few songs I lose all sensitivity in them before Daemonia began.
One of the highlights of the evening was a new Goblin song featured in Sleepless, the latest Argento film. Listening to it cold (I haven't seen the film yet — in fact I didn't even know Goblin got back for this recording), it was a joy to hear a new piece and say, “Yup! That's Goblin”. True to the Goblin sound while being original at the same time, it just reminded me why Goblin remains one of my all-time favorite musical associations. I only wish those guys could work out their personal grievances and make music more often.
But the ultimate highlight of the show was a rendition they did of the Dawn of the Dead classic “Zombi”. I'm not saying this simple because of my fondness for the movie. The piece moved; the piece flew. The band was tight and pulled off what I would have thought to be an impossible feat. Simonetti imaginatively handled the midsection, which on the record relies heavily on percussion. At first I thought, “what's going on here!” but as soon as I got over my preconception derived from years of listening to the same cut over and over, I was blown away to hear it handled in such an impressive way. The audience too responded well, and the normally docile Japanese were bouncing in their seats. When the piece was done, I turned to my friend Yoshi to see a wide smile across his face. “That was like a dream,” I said. He agreed without hesitation.
One surprising part of the show was a rendition of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue. My initial exposure to this piece was as a boy when I saw the film Tales from the Crypt. Its chilling opening blew me away the very first moment I heard it. Before beginning, Simonetti apologized to Bach. He needn't have. The opening was true to Bach’s work and played to stunning perfection by Mr. Simonetti. Part way into the song, the band joined in to create a very unique, rock and roll version of this timeless classic. I think that if Bach had had any sense of humor he would have greatly enjoyed hearing such an original and modern handling of his music.
Throughout the show Simonetti kept a strong rapport with the audience. Introducing each song or each group of songs, he made sure that the audience was aware of when the piece was written, what film it belonged to and how it fit into the scheme of his musical development. It made for an intimate setting. Whereas some artists try to distance themselves from past projects, Simonetti embraces his. As a fan of not only Goblin but Simonetti as well, I was glad for this. In the end, I felt as if I was being given a walk through the maestro's work by the maestro himself. Fortunately for me, despite this being in Japan and his being Italian, he spoke exclusively in English.
The audience was small; I'd put it at 200, which I found surprising as Goblin is probably bigger in Japan than in the US. There isn't a record store here that you cant find their records. I'd have to chalk up the low attendance to poor promotion. The club, though, was small, and so the venue itself was capacity or near capacity. In either case, the band played to a full house of a very appreciative audience. For me, it couldn't have been a better setting.
After the set ended the audience pounded hands for more. The band relinquished and came out to perform another two songs, repeats from the set as they had exhausted all their material. But no one cared. We just wanted more in any shape or form. When that was done and they'd left the stage again, more clapping and shouts erupted. The band returned quickly, more than happy to keep playing. Regrettably, the people working at the club were not thrilled over this. I could see one of the club guys standing off stage holding his arms up in an “X” position, the Japanese symbol for “No Good”. But Daemonia ignored him and played on. Everyone stood and cheered as their last song, the theme from Susperia, put a capper on a very special night of music.
Following the show I was able to talk with Mr. Simonetti. Many times he thanked me for coming with whole hearted sincerity. A musician myself, I could understand his feelings. Music is a cooperative art. Without an audience of ears music has no meaning. I always believe that a truly great artist is aware of the important role of the audience. I also want to point out that I was very appreciative of Mr. Simonetti's friendly nature. Even before the show he was immensely personable. When I first walked into the club I found him sitting at a small table being interviewed for the Japanese edition of Starlog Magazine. Looking up and seeing me, Mr. Simonetti held out a hand to thank me for coming. It's not often that one goes to see ones musical hero only to be greeted by him personally at the door.
Standing outside in the cool Autumn Harajuku night with the band and a few other hangers-on, I watched Daemonia pack their equipment and head out to enjoy their last night in Tokyo. Overall, it was an unexpected evening of high musicality that I owe to my having discovered Dawn of the Dead some twenty-three years ago.
Though native to Italy, Daemonia has been making the world rounds. I urge everyone to attend a show if they come to your city. There is no way you will be disappointed. Daemonia is band of unequaled stature and is blessed with a set of highly original and unique musical compositions. I only pray they return to Japan soon to save me from the local nonsense music I have to endure day after day.
For further information on Daemonia, please check their website at: http://www.daemonia.it/
For further information on Maestro Simonetti please visit his website at: http://www.simonetti.org/
Photos from the Ruido Daemonia show: