Kansas City, MO
I am a happy camper. Why, you might ask? Because I get to see another show from Sweden’s greatest Rock N Roll export in years! GHOST!
Once again, yours truly waited with great anticipation at what the show would bring ’round this time. Sure, the band had come through earlier in the year for Kansas City’s Rockfest. A much ballyhooed yearly gathering of fans and bands too numerous to mention; but that show was short and not a great meter of the attention this band truly deserves. Not to mention, I don’t like crowds of that size, so I skipped that show.
I remember when this band was first starting out. Opening for bands like Opeth during the ‘Opus’ era and yet getting nary a mention amongst fans at the time. Meanwhile an underground rumbling was felt. True fans began following every little thing the band was doing. The following tour found the band not only opening for others, but doing their own small theater headlining tours across the USA. Almost unheard of for a band coming from Swede. (not an easy feet for American bands either!).
The cult of Ghost was growing.
Then came the next wave of theater tours for ‘Meliora.’ Slightly bigger venues, almost always sold out. There were people outside many of the theaters hoping an extra ticket would pop up so they could get in at the last minute. It seems the cat was out of the bag. A Grammy win by the band had brought out more fans. Both casual and die hard.
Ghost calls their events “rituals”. You might have seen me mention it here before, but it really is true. These are not your average concerts with a bunch of guys (sometime girls) jumping on stage and just playing. This band likes to sit and think out the entire show. From the stage to the costumes, to the shirts and the merchandise (ritual dildos anyone?). Even right down to what Papa himself will be addressing the audience with. Entertainment isn’t just what the band is shooting for. It’s the fan experience, a trait that has been lacking in most bands touring criteria for years.
Will the band deliver once again on this Popestar tour of theirs? Read on and find out.
Opening the show was a band I’d never heard of before, Carpenter Brut (what a strange name). Don’t let it fool you though, these guys were good! A Techno/New Wave and almost Gothic band in it’s presentation. Dark, brooding and really, really good music! Tinges of a Miami Vice 80’s soundtrack, mixed in with a healthy dose of trance style influence. This band fit right in with what Ghost is doing on their new Ep, Popestar (the dark and sinister imagery onstage while the band played didn’t hurt either). See my review of Popestar elsewhere here for more of an idea what I am talking about.
Next up, our favorite Ghouls…
As usual, the band started the evening with the sounds of “Miserere Mei, Deus” and “Masked Ball” wafting through the sound system. The latter featuring a pair of well dressed minions of the band eventually coming out from opposite sides of the stage. Facing one another and bowing in ritualistic fashion before removing the covers from the keyboards and drums. The reaction from the crowd was that of pure excitement, only adding to the anticipation. A lost art, once again renewed by the band. The opening chords of Ghost’s latest single, “Square Hammer” broke out and with a flash of fog and lighting, there was Papa at center stage atop the riser; his tall trademark white mitre hat and flowing black robes emblazoned with the ”double G” Ghost emblem, commanding in his presence. Oh yeah, goosebumps again. The song gave way into the opening bass salvo of “From The Pinnacle To The Pit” and the crowd was stomping and tearing apart the seems of the sound barrier. It was obvious by the shorter stature, that there was a new ghoul playing the bass, and that ghoul played it with a conviction! I’ll let the other sites conjecture about identity and symbols. For now I’m here for the band and the band is here for us
Then, what I have been waiting for many years to finally hear from the band “Secular Haze“! The band rarely, if ever plays this song in the states and it was long oversue for my ears. I could never understand why they didn’t play it. I don’t even understand it more now, because in a live setting, this song shines (imagine the word “shine” sparkling in the lights)!
The band followed through with the staples of “Stand By Him,” “Con Clavi Con Dio” and (always accompanied by a much louder crowd sing along!) “Ad Aspera Ad Inferi” before taking a short rest for Papa to dress down in his signature 1920’s art deco style outfit for the second half of the show. I call him the ”Leisurely Papa”, because this is when he really seems to “let his hair down”.
(REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW AFTER GALLERY)
The band picked up again with “Body & Blood,” another staple of the show before the calm organ sounds of “Devil Church” came on to introduce us to their biggest single to date “Cirice,” the song which landed the band their first Grammy win. “Year Zero” bringing the pace back up to a bit before heading into the complex gospel style influenced “He Is.” A song that see many fans being swept up into the music and it’s beautiful structure of guitars and keyboards.
Along the way, Papa (in his trademark Transylvanian/Dracula style accent) introduced the “Sisters Of Sin”, who once again. served communion to the front row after Papa laid down a few rules. He declared that there was to be no touching or grabbing or “licking of their fingers”. The crowd laughed and cheered. He responded back “Why are those of you in the back applauding? Only the ones in front will be getting communion, the rest of you can all touch each other and lick each others fingers all you want!”.
The cry out for “Absolution” was met with continuous crowd singing along. The sinister, yet catchy, “Mummy Dust” saw the band launch massive amounts of confetti onto the crowd. Many of who did not realize that the confetti was peppered with “Mummy Dust,” Ghost branded play money in the “value” of ‘666’ dollars emblazoned with Papa’s face upon them. A really nice keepsake from the show for those lucky enough to grab one before the beer stained floors and crowd tore them up and destroyed them.
The band closed the show out with perennial favorites “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” and “Ritual” before taking their final bows.
But wait, Papa stayed behind and began talking to the audience. For several minutes, we were regaled on the joys of going to a rock show, all of which are basically “Satanic” as Papa quipped. He talked about togetherness and bonding with fellow human beings, and yes, sex. Making small hand gestures in which ‘Air’, the nameless Ghoul on Keyboards who had reappeared, helped accentuate with piano style flourishes. There were many a great laughs as he connected with the crowd on a much more personal level than ever before.
Eventually the rest of the band returned and Papa joined back up for the shows real finale, the sounds of the “Monstrance Clock”. A staple closing song that always has the band depart the stage as the lights go dim and the echoing chorus of “Come together, come together as one. Come together for Lucifer’s son” trailing on leaves the audience on their own once again. Anxiously awaiting the bands next return.
I caught up to Papa for a bit after the show and said to him “At this rate, in another year, you are going to be playing arenas and surrounded by a six foot wall of security guards and no one will get to meet you anymore!”, he replied back, “Not if I can help it!”. Just when I thought I couldn’t love the band more…
HAIL GHOST! HAIL PAPA!