To say that I was highly anticipating seeing Ghost in the flesh would probably be the understatement of the year. Their 2010 debut full length Opus Eponymous has been in near constant rotation since its release, and this year’s Infestissumam already has a place in my year-end top five all but locked up. There is something about their combination of Luciferian lyrics, infectious yet hard-rocking pop hooks and outlandish visuals that’s incredibly appealing to this old fan of KISS, Alice Cooper and King Diamond, artists with which Ghost clearly shares a lineage.
After what seemed like an overly long opening set from Ides of Gemini (the less said about them, the better) and what felt like an eternity of waiting, the lights dimmed, the venue filled with smoke and incense, and Papa Emeritus II and his band of nameless ghouls walked on stage to the strains of intro track “Infestissumam.” The band immediately launched into “Per Aspera Ad Inferi,” and in no time an extremely diverse crowd of heshers, hipsters, punks and average joes were singing along in honor of the Dark Lord. I can’t think of too many bands that could bring such a motley crew together, but Ghost had everyone mesmerized from the very first note.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the band has an incredibly entrancing focal point in the form of Papa Emeritus II. His appearance alone makes him difficult to turn away from, but it’s also much to do with the fact that Ghost is a very vocal-driven band, and Papa is the source of those oh-so-glorious hooks. Even when not singing, Papa acts as if he is conducting the band and the crowd, gesturing and moving along with the music with grace and ease, leading me to believe that whoever he is under the makeup and vestments, he’s a crafty veteran frontman. With minimal stage banter, he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand as Ghost played through all of Opus Eponymous and five songs from Infesstisumam. The live mix was among the most exceptional I’ve ever experienced, adding some metallic heft to Ghost’s sonic attack and making those stellar choruses sound absolutely enormous.
It’s difficult to pick out highlights of Ghost’s thirteen song set, but it was pretty darn exhilarating to hear personal favorites such as “Ritual” “Elizabeth” “Year Zero” and “Monstrance Clock.” Luckily the band was loud enough that no one seemed to hear my tone deaf attempts at singing along. I was headbanging and throwing up horns and invisible oranges like a drooling fanboy throughout the night, but the one thing that set Ghost apart from many of the other bands I’ve seen live is that they actually had me smiling. Perhaps it was the euphoria that comes with finally seeing a favorite band in person, or maybe it was simply the fact that there truly is something joyful (for me at least) about Ghost’s music.
Indeed, Saturday night’s show felt like a celebration; the crowd reveling in a band that are not only great songwriters, but also great showmen, a combination that’s becoming all too rare. Regardless of whether or not Ghost are 100% serious about their Satanism, I couldn’t help but think that if the sextet were legitimately on a mission to spread the perverse gospel of Old Scratch, they were doing one hell of a job.
[all photos by the lovely and talented Mrs. THKD]