LIVE RECAP: Ghost – 05/13/13 – 9:30 Club – Washington, D.C.


By Greg Maki

The smell of burning incense filled the air. Blue light illuminated the fog-filled stage, behind which rested a cloth backdrop depicting the inside of a church. But this was no holy affair. One by one, five black-robed, masked figures took their places—drums, keyboards, bass, two guitars. The voices of a choir, pre-recorded, came forth before the Nameless Ghouls onstage put their weapons to work. The service of Ghost had begun.

As the title track of the band’s newly released second album, “Infestissumam,” segued into “Per Aspera Ad Inferi,” the face of Ghost emerged from the fog: Papa Emeritus II, appearing as a demonic pope, brandishing a staff, his face painted into the visage of a skull, his countenance at odds with the smooth, melodic tones of his voice. The sizable Monday-night crowd responded with maximum fervor; all had come for a singular purpose: to worship at this unholy church of rock ‘n’ roll.

Hailing from Sweden, Ghost built a strong buzz with its debut album, “Opus Eponymous” (2010), and has seen its profile rise even higher with its sophomore effort. This run was its first as a headliner in North America and also included performances at high-profile festivals Coachella and Rock on the Range.

It would be understandable to look at the band and dismiss it as a gimmick. But it was not a gimmick that sustained a riveting 75-minute performance. With a retro, 1970s hard rock/metal sound—think Blue Oyster Cult meets Black Sabbath—that also somehow sounds very much of the moment, Ghost more than holds up sonically, and Papa Emeritus II, though encumbered by his long, flowing robes, is a rare showman.

The set list consisted of 15 of the 19 songs from the band’s two albums, with standouts including “Elizabeth,” the Satanic waltz of “Secular Haze,” the instrumental “Genesis,” “Year Zero” and the biggest fan favorite of the night, “Ritual.” The best was left for the encore: “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” which starts as a soft ballad before climbing to its rousing chorus, and the show-closing, singalong-worthy “Monstrance Clock.”

Fans filed out of the venue changed, for they had just seen something—been a part of something—different. Ghost had left its unholy stamp upon them, perhaps expanding their ideas of what music and live performance can be.

GHOST SET LIST: “Infestissumam,” “Per Aspera Ad Inferi,” “Con Clavi Con Dio,” “Prime Mover,” “Elizabeth,” “Secular Haze,” “Body and Blood,” “Stand by Him,” “Death Knell,” “Satan Prayer,” “Genesis,” “Year Zero,” “Ritual,” (encore) “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” “Monstrance Clock”


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