To say that the band Ghost has gone through changes since their first album is an understatement. If you follow the band you probably have a clue as to how the nameless ghouls have been shuffled in and out over the years with the only constant being the man behind the mask, Tobia Forge. Love them or hate them, Ghost has left an impression on the rock n roll world and Tobias’ genius has left them in the somewhat uncategorizable column. Part metal, part classic rock, part pop, part dance, part humor, part horror…you get the idea. But in order to grow what started out as a side project into an arena band has taken some playing with the formula.
Skipping what many long loving Ghost devotees have come to see as tradition, the opening intro of Joycelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” from Eyes Wide Shut was nowhere to be heard, the incense was nowhere to be smelled, but the anticipation was nevertheless mega-high. Hitting the stage from the side, Cardinal Copia (Forge) belted out “Ashes” from their last full release, Prequelle. As the band and the Cardinal blasted through “Rats” and “Faith” (also from Prequelle) a few things became apparent. First off, the band and Copia were in peak form having had plenty of time to gel since the same ghouls have been together touring since the ‘A Pale Tour Named Death’ theater run and all the European tour opening for Metallica. Secondly, the stage was very wide open like only an arena type show can handle. Some may see this as a great thing and some bad. The Ghost that many fell in love with and saw as ‘their band’ is no longer a dirty little secret. Major radio play has a tendency to do that. So, the blasphemy is a bit down and the camp is quite a bit up.
The various incarnations of Papa’s and the current Cardinal all used humor to enhance the show and offset what some would call ‘devil worship’ but really is just the love of horror films and not far from what Sabbath/Ozzy, KISS, Alice, Mercyful Fate, etc. etc. have been doing for ages. It’s entertainment pure and simple. But as Tobias may have had the goal of doing the arena shows, he has lost a bit of that element that made Ghost shows so special. There was an intimacy and connection that is much harder to come by at a large show, even at half-house like the Covelli Center was last Thursday. Maybe that’s just a fan bemoaning losing their fave to the masses, but while the large scale pyro and lighting are nice, there seems to be a missing element in spots.
Hearing the recently released songs “Mary on a Cross” and “Kiss The Go-Goat” was undoubtedly a ton of fun along with the usual banter from Tobias, even if the Cardinal looks like the bastard child of Father Guido Sarducci and Vincent Price. It will be super exciting to see Papa IV either take his place or see Copia morph into the role next album cycle as Forge has promised. Other big highlights were “Cirice”, “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, “Year Zero” and ” Square Hammer”. But gone were huge faves “Monstrance Clock”, traditionally the closer, the heaviest tune and most killer bass line from the first record (Opus Eponymous) “Con Clavi Con Dio” as well as the acoustic version of “Jigolo Har Meggido”. Of course, this is to be expected as a band grows, but it does not stop one from missing it.
All in all, Ghost was impeccable, the band had a bit more time to play instrumentals which really showed their chops and Tobias’ voice was outstanding as he hit some seriously challenging notes. This will be the last time to see the band as they ride into their first decade, of what will sure to be many, for the Tobias is taking 2020 off to write, record, and spend some much deserved time with family. His direction is rumored to be back to “riffage” and some heavier tunes as Prequelle was a bit ballad-heavy. Let us hope he is true to his word and he pairs that heaviness with a creepy Papa (maybe a red skull?) back to the Tri-State area in 2021.
Opener Nothing More was super intense and energetic. Hailing from San Antonio Texas, the band is no stranger to opening for fantastic bands and headlining on their own. Frontman Jonny Hawkins is pure kinetic energy as he runs around barefoot, jumps off a crazy metal contraption, and jumps behind some drums all while using his ultra-talented vocals. The rest of the band, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, Ben Anderson, are also super talented and mega tight. It will only be a matter of time before this band breaks out even bigger as they certainly are a crowd-pleaser.