An Evening With Ghost – Rats! on the Road tour
29 May 2018 at the Clyde Theatre, Fort Wayne, Indiana
On Tuesday, May 29th, 2018, I was lucky enough to attend a live “ritual” from one of today’s most polarizing bands, and was treated to one of the most entertaining, well-performed live concerts I’ve had the pleasure to attend. Fort Wayne’s newly-opened Clyde Theatre hosted “An Evening With Ghost,” part of the Rats! On the Road tour, supporting Ghost’s 4th full-length phonographic record, Prequelle. On the evening in question, Prequelle was just days away from being unleashed upon the world, and my little, black heart could not have been happier to be in attendance.
Upon entering the Clyde Theatre (a truly beautiful, terrific venue), I briefly said hi and exchanged hugs with IMV photographer Dawne Ponsler Meyers, grabbed a couple of PBRs, and found a decent spot down front with a great view of the stage. 80’s pop and goth songs played before, setting the tone for the evening, and the set – a stone cathedral of sorts with blackened voids in the shape of windows, was laid bare, unmasked by any curtain; the aesthetic, for lack of a better word, set the stage for the evening. The crowd was full of metalheads and Ghost fans – I saw everything from black metal t-shirts to many, many Ghost shirts, to even one young woman dressed as a Satanic Nun. The atmosphere before the show was pulsing with evil electricity, to say the least.
Soon, the 80’s music was replaced by “Klara stiärnor” and “Miserere Mei, Deus,” two classical pieces that fully set the tone for Ghost’s twisted take on Catholic Mass. The former was an instrumental piano piece, almost the calm before the storm which is Ghost, and the latter was a choir piece; both were hauntingly beautiful. Fog machines started to belch out their mist, and the two pieces were replaced by “Ashes,” an eerie, chilling take on the nursery rhyme “Ashes to Ashes” which serves as the first track from Ghost’s new album. Soon, the black voids that served as the windows of the church set were replaced by a stained glass backdrop, depicting demonic cherubs and the evil visage of Papa Nihil, the devilish head of Ghost’s “church.” As “Ashes” ended, the Nameless Ghouls took the stage, and the powerful, chugging riff of “Rats,” the new album’s first single, filled the ears of Ghost’s congregation as “new” frontman Cardinal Copia took the stage.
Yes, this is still Tobias Forge, the man behind the skulls of Papa Emeritus I, III, and III, but Cardinal Copia is an entirely different monster. The prospect of Ghost’s revolving door of frontmen is dicey, and, it’s odd to see the iconic, Satanic, skull-faced visage of the line of Emeritus replaced by the ghoulish, John-Waters-mustachioed Cardinal Copia, but rest assured, what Ghost may have lost in the imagery of the skeleton Popes, they’ve gained with quite a presence in their new, less stoic, leader. Svelte, sexy, and not afraid to shake his ass and dance like one possessed, the Cardinal commanded the stage, and, before long, the whole audience was singing the chorus of the new single, “Rats, waa-hoooo-ooo.” The band followed this new song with two of their biggest songs, “Absolution” and “Ritual,” and the crowd was filled with Ghost’s unique brand of pop metal Satanism. The stage was soon bathed in red light as the powerful, screaming guitars of “Con Clavi Con Dio” began, and the Cardinal, who had momentarily disappeared offstage, returned, now costumed in his full Cardinal dressings, swinging a censer which sent clouds of fragrant incense wafting through the Cylde. “Per Asperi ad Inferi” followed, and Ghost was at the peak of their Luciferian aesthetic. Laugh at Ghost all you want nonbelievers, but it is a thoroughly intense sight to see a Satanic Cardinal holding dominion over a willing congregation of Ghost disciples as the Nameless Ghouls thoroughly rock everyone in the vicinity with their malevolent music.
“Devil Church,” “Cirice,” and “Stand by Him” soon followed, and then the Cardinal left the stage once more as the Nameless Ghouls took command of the stage to perform “Miasma,” one of the most powerful instrumentals from Prequelle, and, at the height of the song, Papa Nihil himself took the stage to deliver a blistering, and frankly gleefully hilarious, saxophone solo, accompanied by two Satanic nuns who supported this ancient devil. The Cardinal returned in a wonderfully pimped out white suit, and, after asking the crowd if they/we were into kinks, three of the Nameless Ghouls sat on the steps behind him to perform a wonderfully acoustic and obscene “Jigolo Har Megidoo,” The first act (YES, I said first act) of the performance ended with “Pro Memoria” and “Deus in Absentia,” two powerful, pop-driven songs, the former of which is featured on Prequelle, and features the haunting chorus “Don’t you forget about dying, don’t you forget about your friend Death, don’t you forget that you will die.”
After a fifteen-minute intermission, during which we were informed to “take the opportunity to expel or replenish any liquids” as we saw fit, Jocelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” ushered in the second act of our evening with Ghost. The Cardinal and his Nameless Ghouls began the second half of the show with some of their strongest, hardest songs, “Spirit,” “From The Pinnacle to the Pit,” and the absolutely, wonderfully Satanic “Year Zero,” each song being performed to its absolute perfection. It should be noted here that Ghost is probably in its best incarnation and at its musically strongest at this point; the band was absolutely on fire, both in terms of the Cardinal’s vocals and the musical chops of the Nameless Ghouls. It was also in this block of songs that the Cardinal introduced the crowd to “Faith,” maybe the hardest rocking jam on Prequelle, and one, in his words, that was “rockin’ like Dokken.” And, fuck me, it was. Holy shit, indeed.
A pre-record of “Spöksonat” from Meliora, Ghost’s 2015 third album, gave the band a momentary break before they launched into the devilishly beautiful “He Is,” and “Prime Mover,” one of the darkest songs in Ghost’s grimoire of decadent dirges. This was followed by another of many high points in the night’s set, and a staple of Ghost’s live shows — an amazing, ghoulish cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts,” which turned into a twelve-minute jam in which the Cardinal took the opportunity to introduce each member of the band… which consisted of Copia riffing on each member’s place in the band before introducing each musician as simply “Ghoul,” which seemed to only get sillier and more hilarious as he moved through the band’s current roster. The show proper ended with “Dance Macabre,” the 2nd single from Prequelle and “Square Hammer,” from Popestar, the EP that followed Meliora.
After absolutely killing it on both songs, Ghost momentarily departed the stage, but, soon after, Cardinal Copia returned, asking the crowd if they wanted to go home… and, after a resounding “NO,” the Cardinal promised one more song, as long as the crowd made it count… and also promised him that we’d all go home and give ourselves our own “happy ending.” Yes, the Cardinal asked us to go home and give ourselves an orgasm… but, honestly, the finale of the show was its own Satanic release. Ghost once again took the stage and ended the evening with “Monstrance Clock,” and the crowd was fully into the devil music the Cardinal had gifted them. “Come together, together as one. Come together for Lucifer’s son,” the crowd sang, and, soon, it was over, and Ghost had left the Clyde, leaving all of us completely rocked and satisfied. Dead Can Dance’s “The Host of Seraphim” played over the Clyde’s speakers as the crowd departed, and it was hard to imagine that anyone in attendance could have asked for anything more.
Yes, Ghost is schlocky. Ghost is corny. Ghost is, at its worst, a gimmick that works exceedingly well. Most of all, though, Ghost is immensely fun, and it is a damn shame that a portion of the metal community is dismissive, if not outright hostile and hateful toward this band. I couldn’t help but think how terribly sad it must be to have no sense of humor about the things that you love, and that the serious, one-track mindedness of some fans keeps them from having an enjoyable night of some devilishly catchy music performed by a band that is tight as… dare I say… Hell. People like what they like, and I’m not damning anyone for their preferences in music… but, really, Ghost isn’t doing anything that bands like Gwar haven’t done, and, in this (admittedly hack) journalist’s view, they’re doing it musically better than any of their predecessors. I mean, what’s not to like about a Satanic Cardinal asking the crowd if they liked to have their “asses wobbled” and “taints tickled”? If you didn’t catch Ghost on their Rats! On the Road tour, I highly suggest picking up their latest release, Prequelle, and catching the Satanic ritual the next time they’re near your hometown. Your very soul may rely on it.
Klara stjärnor (Jan Johansson song)
Miserere Mei, Deus (Gergorio Allegri song)
5. Con Clavi Con Dio
6. Per Aspera ad Inferi
7. Devil Church
9. Stand by Him
10. Miasma (ft. Papa Nihil on sax solo)
11. Jigolo Har Megiddo (acoustic)
12. Pro Memoria
13. Deus in Absentia
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
15. From The Pinnacle to the Pit
17. Year Zero
18, He Is
19. Prime Mover
20. Mummy Dust
21. If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)
22. Dance Macabre
23. Square Hammer
24. Monstrance Clock
The Host of Seraphim (Dead Can Dance song)
(All photos courtesy of Dawne Ponsler Meyers/Pix Meyers Photography.)
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