You know the band that you feel like you discovered so early on that you swear they are part of you? It’s like you learned some great secret and you just cannot help but want to share that secret with everyone. Little by little it’s not a secret anymore and that can be joyous or disastrous. Many fans are protective of the bands they find, but personally, I love sharing them with people and seeing those bands have their effect on as many people as possible. I first caught Ghost in a little article in Decibel and it was not long after that they embarked on a US Tour (2012) with Opeth and Mastodon that I was privileged to witness and photograph. I left that experience with a deep love for what the band was doing and could never dream the level of what they are up to now. I have not missed a Ghost show in town since, so I will do my best to remain unbias, but fully revealing, which is why I am unusually writing in the first person.
Ghost is currently on their US “Popestar” Tour that coincides with an EP of the same name. Everyone who purchases a ticket gets a free download of the EP (a little trick Prince sort of invented). Ghost’s Popestar is a brilliant chapter in what is hopefully an endless novel of work. On an EP, a band is often able to introduce new material as well as offer deep cuts, live, never-heard, or cover songs. With each LP or EP Ghost has produced they have grown and shown more of their personality as a band and their versatility. This latest piece includes “Square Hammer” which will take Ghost to another level in popularity due to its catchy chorus that I defy you to erase from your head. Ghost decided to open with this song, risky, but a great call. The song came off wonderfully and flawlessly, the audience already knowing every word. The rest of the EP was not handled live, most likely due to that fact it is mainly cover tunes, including songs from The Eurythmics, Echo and The Bunnymen, Simian Mobile Disco, and Imperiet. In many ways that was a bonus because what one really wants to see are the Ghost songs one loves and is familiar with.
The second and third song were heavy hitters, including the last LP Meliora‘s big hit “From The Pinnacle To The Pit”. This was another breakthrough for the band in the heavier vibe and killer bass line, this time, handled live by the new female bassist (replacing Omega), who could be or could not be SeanYseult from White Zombie (or possibly onetime the Oath guitarist Linnéa Olsson). Then “Secular Haze” lead single from Infestissumam came blazing in to keep the heavy vibe rolling. It was great to hear something from the first LP, Opus Eponymous, in “Stand By Him” keeping with the tongue in cheek horror/religious and social commentary theme. And this is where Ghost either wins people over or loses them, it is their intelligent, sometimes humorous, and double entendre lyrics that either make you fall in love or run for holy water.
“Con Clavi Con Dio” was perfect, as Papa continued to perform flawless vocals, and dual guitar players just keep hitting the riffs and gorgeous melodies that fit so perfectly, not overpowering, but subtle with grace. Of course, this particular song draws a bit more on their horror genre pieces being from the first LP but also includes a good Latin lesson for those digging beyond surface level. Tack onto that “Per Aspera ad Inferi” that shows off the more sexual side that Ghost explored on Infestissumam . And then came “Body and Blood”, a song that explores cannibalism, as well as the sexual metaphor of eating flesh, and the strange phenomenon of when one eats communion, it also has to come out…food for thought people.
The instrumental “Devil Church” was a great segway to the single (and huge sing a long) “Cirice“, a love song of sorts only Ghost could pull off. Papa continued with hilarious banter in between songs, always in his “Dracula” voice, and everyone ate up the theatricality. It was as though everyone in the audience was in on the fun, got the inside joke, released their inhibitions for a few hours. This is what concerts are for, yes? “Year Zero”, one of Ghost’s strongest tunes and of course, most outwardly “satanic” with the mentions of Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, and Lucifer, brought a massive cheer and response from the audience. With the chorus of “Hell Satan, Archangelo/Hell Satan, Welcome year zero” either you join in or go to confession the next day, or maybe both. What true fans of Ghost realize is that they do not take this stuff too seriously and treat it more as horror fun. Strong religious types are not going to agree anyway, so I will not even entertain appeasing their opinion. A small intermission followed to allow Papa’s key costume change out of the dead pope costume and into the art deco, 1920’s stylish persona that was unleashed on the previous tour.
The following songs were He Is, Absolution, Mummy Dust, Ghuleh/Zombie Queen, and Ritual. Just brilliant. “Mummy Dust”, “Ghuleh” and “Zombie Queen” completely highlight how musically deep this band is and the complex arrangements that they can put together. Ghost is part metal, part prog, part new wave, part classic rock, and we’ll throw some classical in there as well. Who else can pull out a Keytar and not look like some pop one hit wonder from the 90’s? They have the ability to put together things that are unexpected, completely embodied by the dichotomy of their image and their music. I cannot apologize for loving this band which is why I stated the earlier disclaimer, it’s hard not to be biased when you have witnessed them five times (every tour in essence), every time they have graced Pittsburgh, and have come away with such elation, a tough feat when you are lucky enough to go to a few shows every week.
The encore, of course, was the traditional “Monstrance Clock” ending and the spooky chorus of “Come together, together as a one /Come together for Lucifer’s son”. Fists raised and pumping, the audience in full fervor sung along and when it ended left spent and happy, much like Papa’s explanation of the slower paced song being a bit like the show building to an orgasm. This writer left very spent and very happy. Every song was great, the show surrounding the show was killer, and the crowd was super cool. Doug Bradley, AKA “Pinhead” from Hellraiser was, as always, in attendance with his beautiful and talented artist girlfriend and hung out in the pit for a bit with the photographers. This was icing on the cake, in that we had a great conversation about the band and Doug described himself as a “fanboy” and as a close friend of the band, discussed “Papa’s” genius (even though we all know who it is, I will not confirm). Part of the fun of Ghost is the mystery they have built and the fans protect. It works and it fits perfectly in the genre. As they finish this tour and move on to the next LP, the band will inevitably become bigger and better. But, being the “taste” that they are, the band will always be ours, always belong to us, always be our secret. May the haunt us forever.
All photos 2016 AWeldingphoto