Venue: Barclays Center
Label: Loma Vista Recordings
There is a spectre haunting the world, the spectre of Ghost. Having gone from playing theaters only a year ago to dominating the same sold-out arenas as Iron Maiden, Ghost is a phenomena. From an outsider’s non-metal perspective, Ghost is “basically a satanic Alice Cooper mixed with KISS and a little bit of Marilyn Manson, right?” Although a decent attempt to brand Ghost with a single visual label, this endeavor is ill-fated as it forgoes the group’s depth, and even insults Ghost’s core ideology, and musical wizardry.
So if Ghost isn’t just a satanic Alice-KISS-Manson mashup, what are they and how is what they do any different from the others? Easy. Ghost, as explained by frontman Tobias Forge, is a Mass, a celebration if you will. An evil satanic Mass celebrating the Lord of the Underworld, you ask? Nay. The Ghost spectacle is a celebration of life, knowledge, exploration, and of course, heavy riffs, big drums, and a bass line that will “wobble your ass,” as Cardinal Copia might say. Still not following how a bunch of Swedes (or so we think) dressed up as ghouls commanded by the antithesis of religious piety is actually a loving, caring, and genius gift to the fate of humankind? Fair enough. Without going into further examination of their lyrical content, as I faithfully believe you can research the true meaning behind most songs by a click of a mouse, let’s highlight Ghost’s 2018 tour: A Pale Tour Named Death.
On the 15th of December, the year of our Lord 2018, Ghost graces New York City with a three hour manifestation at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With no opener, Ghost singlehandedly will carry the night’s elegant, yet vulgar spirit. At 7:50pm, you hear organs and Gregorian chants- generic musical pieces for religious happenings. The audience understands the satirical decision, and is prepared for a sudden change in pace as “Ashes,” or a sinister version of “Ring around the Rosy,” as most Americans know it, begins to play. The crowd screams in excitement before the first cymbal strike of the band’s #1 hit single, “Rats”. Suddenly, He is there. Cardinal Copia is robed in a black tailcoat with a reversed crucifix intertwined with the letter “G” stitched on his left breast, black pointed shoes, glossy black gloves, and *very* tight black pants. His hair is appropriately gelled back, his posture is that of a Catholic-schooled refined gentleman, and his swagger as he makes each deliberate footstep is unsurmountable.
The Mass devours every second of his highly anticipated presence. A genuine wave of heavenly joy and comfort sweeps The Barclays Center from the nosebleeds, to the woman handing Cardi C (that’s shorthand for Cardinal Copia- now you’re with it!) roses. There is no hatred here tonight, not a single corrupt soul, and certainly no evil, but instead, a gathering of peaceful, loving, and devout metalheads. The octet power through “Absolution,” “Idolatrine,” and “Ritual” before the Cardinal steps offstage only to return moments later in full cassock wearing belt and biretta, and holding a censer burning what smells of Frankincense. The band bursts into the first note of “Con Clavi Con Dio,” and the crowd opens up in Latin tongue to sing the lyric, “Siamo con clavi (Siamo con dio)/Siamo con il nostro dio scuro”. While the Catholic Church has abandoned Latin, Ghost carries on the traditional rite—with a twist of Hades. Learning the lyrics of a song is one way to show dedication to a band, but memorizing a passage in a dead language displays an unfettered faith of devout and enthusiastic followers. To add fuel to the flame, the audience continues their generous display of affection and control of the Latin language during “Per Aspera ad Inferi,” and it delights them to do so.
The Cardinal takes leave yet again during “Devil Church” as a humorous, clever, and passionate guitar battle between Ghoul and Ghoul erupts into Grammy Award-winning song, “Cirice”. “Miasma” follows with a Vesuvius level of applause as Papa Nihil climbs his way to center stage for a blistering saxophone solo. The song serves as the perfect example of a well-rehearsed and disciplined group who possess the ability to perform miracles without the physical presence of their dark leader.
Cardi C reemerges with an onslaught of applause to speak with his disciples, only this time, he appears much brighter, garbed in a white version of his tailcoat outfit with a fedora and cane in hand. As he wriggles his hips and thanks the audience for attending, he explains that this is the part of the show where “we go down, as they say, a little bit in intensity,” but reassures the audience of the song’s R-rated “filthy” lyrical content discussing “going down”. Naturally, the appreciative fans cheer as the Cardinal pleases them with an acoustic version of “Jigolo Har Megiddo”. “Pro Memoria,” “Witch Image,” and “Life Eternal” echo the sonic change in the night until the unsuspected 15-minute intermission between acts gives the audience time to ponder the miracles they have witnessed before them.
“Spirit” begins after another mood-setting demonic song finishes. Slowly, and without losing a drop of his unique charm, Cardinal Copia postures toward the top of the stairs positioned center stage. To ignite Act II, the Cardinal sports his scarlet garments finished with not one, but two reversed crucifixes, imitating the Vatican’s cardinals. Though this outfit is short-lived, it seems to represent the corruption that comes hand in hand with power. His chosen songs to accompany one of the most notorious power-embodying religious outfits are “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” and “Majesty,” creating a subtle, but recognizable message. Undergoing another wardrobe change, Cardi C returns in his original black tailcoat and tight pants, but suits a cape for “Satan Prayer,” only to leave Dracula-style and rematerialize sans cape in time to produce a song that “has a little bit of a bite (and will) bite you right in the ass”. Not only does “Faith” possess an acute sting, but it leaves a spiritual warmth in the core of each attendee. The performance makes it appear as if Cardinal Copia is speaking to every individual as they feed off each other’s excitement.
Although not the first use of pyrotechnics over the course of the night, explosions and hell fire accompany “Year Zero,” “He Is,” and “Mummy Dust”. Although labeled innately evil, “Year Zero,” and “He Is” perfectly combine the audience with Ghost. They are, for a moment, one sound, one being, and one movement in unison—you might call it communion. The night draws near an end with three songs to come in the core setlist. As many concession stand operators prepare to leave the venue, the audience patiently waits as Cardinal Copia begins what appears to be an unusual tangent about darkness. Yet, if there is one takeaway from tonight, these paraphrased words are it: “We are about to enter a dark time. Some people do not like this time and they see it as a time of internal darkness. But this is not a bad time. This is a time to rejoice and be happy…sometime, you may cut your hand, and it may hurt very badly. It may hurt for a long time too. But, sometime afterwards, you look at your hand and see it begin to heal. You may even start using your hand again. But, the scar is still there, you see. Even though you may be healed, you still see the scar. But remember that the scar, even though it may hurt at times again, will not hurt as badly as it did when you first cut it. Do you understand what I am saying?” Immediate applause and cheering broke over the audience. Had they been sitting at any point during the show, a standing ovation would have followed this powerful display of kindness. And as the Cardinal finishes his sentence, the audience gives him one last joining of hands, and revert back to their much adored ass-wobbling to “If You Have Ghosts,” “Dance Macabre,” “Square Hammer,” and “Monstrance Clock” before one final bow from Copia and his Ghouls.
So, again, you ask, how is Ghost any different from the other shock rockers? Set aside their blatant satire. Focus on their musical mixture of heavy and light, humorous and serious, sensual and frightening layered genius. Realize the intellect behind the music, the effort and thought put into each masterpiece. Most importantly, feel the desire they have to create for you, and understand their humanitarian compassion that underlies each Ghost spectacle, every Ghost album, and any fan interaction. 2018 is the Year of Ghost.
Klara stjärnor (Jan Johansson song) – tape
Miserere Mei, Deus (Gregorio Allegri song) – tape
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Miasma (with Papa Nihil saxophone solo)
Jigolo Har Megiddo (acoustic)
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song) – tape
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover) (with band introductions)
Monstrance Clock – encore
The Host of Seraphim (Dead Can Dance song) – tape
Official Website: http://ghost-official.com/