I often ponder if, years in the future, people will look back at images of gigs and festivals and interpret them as some form of religious gatherings. A huge crowd drawn together to worship at the altar of whichever rock god they choose to idolise.
When you look at it there are a lot of similarities between the ceremony of attending a gig and popping along to your chosen local place of worship to whichever god floats your ark. There is usually some form of regalia to be worn, leather, denim, One Direction T-Shirt, well it takes all sorts. There is smoke and bright coloured lights to create an atmosphere and the music, oh the glorious music! Uplifting, sonorous, and sung as one, on a good night it transcends all and raises you to a higher plain, glory be…
One band who have taken this to the next degree are Swedish rockers Ghost. You will no doubt have seen the pictures of Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls and made your own conclusions based on the image, I know I had, but seeing the band live a few years back completely changed my perception. Judging by the sold out signs on the doors of the ABC I wasn’t alone.
First up tonight were Zombi, a two piece from Pittsburg featuring Steve Moore on synth and bass and Antony Pattera on drums. Their music is instrumental electronica sounding not unlike a heavy version of Jean Michel Jarre.
The guys have released five albums over the last thirteen years and have toured extensively and for the first ten minutes they were quite interesting, however after forty five I was ready to kill! All tracks appeared to meld into one long electronic beat with Pattera thrashing away on the drums. There was little engagement with the crowd throughout the set and when the biggest cheer you get is when you announce the last song you know you haven’t really won over the crowd. The guys did get polite applause at the end but I don’t think their merch would have been flying off the stand.
Ghost have possibly the best dressed roadcrew in the business looking like funeral directors waiting on the next call. Even the uncovering of the drum kit and keyboards was conducted like a religious ceremony accompanied by heavenly choral music being piped over the PA.
As the atmosphere was ramped up further with monk like chants and a sea of red lights and smoke, the Ghouls took to the stage and kicked into ‘Square Hammer’. Papa appeared centre stage in his full regalia looking every inch the high priest blessing the throng.
What surprised me most on my first encounter with the band is that the music is heavy but very melodic and dare I say it, poppy. I once overheard them being described as a metal a-ha which isn’t too far off. This tour was billed as the Popestar tour taking its name from the band’s recent covers album which is well worth a listen especially the stunning track ‘Bible’.
‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ followed with the congregation singing along, no need for hymn books here as everyone was word perfect. The multi-level stage and three risers stage front were put to good use with Papa and the Ghouls leading the mass(es).
‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ found Papa in full priest mode complete with smoking thurible to add to the atmosphere. With the stage already awash with smoke and red lights it was quite a scene. Prior to the ‘Body and The Blood’ two ‘sisters’ emerged from the wings dressed in full habits and were sent forth along the front row to offer communion. It was amazing how many people surged forward to partake of a bit of cheap wine and a cream cracker!
The big hitters kept coming with ‘Cirice’ and ‘Year Zero’ getting the crowd jumping and the Ghouls taking to the stage front risers for some excellent guitar work. ‘He Is’ slowed things down a bit and proved to be an epic live track. Papa then introduced ‘Mummy Dust’ as a heavy f**king song, not sure of the Latin translation on that one but he wasn’t wrong! The song was also accompanied with two large confetti cannons firing over the crowd, adding to the fun. ‘Ritual’ then rounded off the set while a quick encore of ‘Monstrance Clock’ brought the ceremony to a fitting finale.
Over the last few years Ghost have grown in both stature and in stagecraft and tonight’s show proved that they are more than ready to move to the next level. Having watched footage of the band’s performance at last year’s Hellfest in France it is clear to see that high festival spots also beckon which the guys and Ghouls should take in their stride.
Ghost, amassing the masses to a mass near you soon, hallelujah!
Review and photos by Dave Wilson
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