When the announcement that Ghost would be performing at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh went out it was met with mixed emotions. The Benedum is such a grand venue that typically hosts ballets, operas, and “classy” acts. The building really has not hosted rock shows since it was the rundown Stanley Theater before an extensive renovation transformed it back into the beautiful Benedum. I was in high school when bands such as Motley Crue, Nightranger, Ratt, Aerosmith, and Ted Nugent were at the height of their popularity and rocked the place. It seems somewhat fitting that Ghost would resurrect that vibe from the 70’s and 80’s to put on one “helluva” show Friday night.
The band opened up the show a bit differently than they have in the past, holding off on Jocelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” (from the movie Eyes Wide Shut) until the second half of the show and instead opted for “Klara stjärnor” and “Miserere Mei, Deus” to set the mood before they hit the stage. The band then dramatically went into “Ashes” and once Cardinal Copia entered the band launched into “Rats”, the first single from the new album Prequelle. The backdrop of stained glass windows only changed slightly in that the images now reflected a large Papa Nihil in the middle and the general vibe of the stage was more open than previous tours. Ghost definitely put more money in the production and it absolutely has paid off. In an age when fewer bands put money into production values until they hit the massive arenas, it is a welcome sight to see a band put effort into the entertainment aspect that goes so well with the music. Ghost has understood the concept since their inception and having witnessed the band since their inception and all forms thereafter it has just gotten better and better as the years have seen them rise to bigger audiences. While a bit unsure of the Cardinal Copia concept (singer and founder Tobias Forge changes the image on each album) since the Papas are so beloved, myself being partial to the imagery of Papa II, my all fears were gone once Ghost started going into their catalog. “Absolution”, “Ritual”, and “Con Clavi Con Dio” sounded amazing and having three guitar players (two of whom provide background vocals), two female keyboard players, a bassist, and a drummer allowed the band to use less computerized enhancement.
As the set went on the crowd grew more and more into it, especially when “Per Aspera ad Inferi” had the entire auditorium singing along, regardless if they knew the Latin translation or not. “Devil Church”, “Cirice”, and “Stand By Him” followed with great intensity and the Cardinal’s tongue in cheek humor kept the audience laughing and really enjoying themselves. Maybe that is part of the secret of Ghost, their ability to not take themselves too seriously. The cardinal then disappeared for a costume change as the band played “Miasma” complete with a sax solo from Papa Nihil accompanied by two nuns.
When Copia returned, he was dressed in an outfit that may be described as Father Guido Sarducci in Saturday Night Fever as played by Vincent Price. In other words, awesome. The three ghoul guitar players then sat on the stage steps and played “Jigilo Har Megiddo” acoustically, a personal favorite part of the show in that the acoustic version brings out something darker than the original. “Pro Memoria” and “Deus in Absentia” closed out the First Act followed by a fifteen-minute intermission.
As stated previously, Act Two began with the traditional recording of the eerie and frighteningly moody “Masked Ball” and then launched into “Spirit”, “From The Pinnacle to the Pit”, and the new song “Faith” that seems to have the hardest edge of the three songs released so far and possesses an extremely cool guitar riff. What would be a Ghost show without the chilling beginning of “Year Zero” and the recitation of the beast’s many names (Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer)? The song has a possible reference to the movie Rosemary’s Baby with the allusion to the birth of Lucifer’s son. What a lot of people do not seem to understand is that Tobias’s lyrics may seem like Satanic worship, but have much more to do with the entertainment of horror films and unpopular commentaries on society. “He Is”, “Prime Mover”, and “Mummy Dust” followed and led into the Roky Erickson tune appropriately titled “If You Have Ghosts”. The second act then concluded with a soon to be gigantic hit new song “The Dance Macabre” with it’s 80’s vibe and the previous hit from the last record Popestar “Square Hammer”.
As the lights went down the crowd began chanting “one more song” until the band reappeared. “You didn’t think we would give a shitty ending like that?” Copia exclaimed. He then went on to explain to the uninitiated that there is a tradition of ending the show with “Monstrance Clock” containing the chorus, ‘Come together, together as one
Come together for Lucifer’s son’ which the attendees all sang with fervor.
Every time I get to witness Ghost they evolve and just become better. Many people were concerned when band members were replaced and Tobias was completely outed as the frontman, but Forge has been able to completely quell those concerns by releasing quality music and hiring great musicians. Ghost may be the most entertaining ‘metal’ act out there today and with performances such as this one can only hope they shall haunt us for many years to come.
All photos © 2018 AWeldingphoto