Review by Greg Maki
On the eve of the U.S. presidential election, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ending their campaigns here, Nov. 7 was a momentous day in Raleigh, North Carolina. But for a couple thousand people at the Ritz, a concert venue in an industrial park just outside the city’s downtown, politics took a back seat. Differences were tossed aside as the assembled masses all partook in the ritual of Ghost.
The Swedish occult rockers have rocketed to worldwide stardom, winning a Grammy Award along the way and inspiring some of the most devoted fans any band can claim today. Everyone at the show seemingly wore a Ghost T-shirt or stood in line at the merch table to purchase one. Many came in costumes inspired by the demonic papal figure Papa Emeritus III and the Nameless Ghouls who provide the instrumentation behind him.
The band’s North American “Popestar” tour is its biggest production here to date, with a tiered stage and elaborate backdrop fit for an arena. At the rate they’ve been growing their fan base and with performances as strong and dynamic as this one, Papa and the ghouls could find themselves in venues that size before long.
The band came out of the gate strong, with an unusually up-tempo number for a live opener (for them)—”Square Hammer,” the incredibly infectious single from the recently released “Popestar” EP. The mood soon grew darker with the bass-driven groove of “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” one of the standouts from last year’s superb “Meliora,” followed by the hellish waltz of “Secular Haze,” from 2013’s “Infestissumam,” brought back to the set list on this tour after sitting out the past year.
“Body and Blood” featured two “Sisters of Sin,” local women dressed as nuns giving unholy communion to fans in the front row. “Devil Church,” the instrumental selection that followed, and the extended intro to the Grammy-winning “Cirice” gave Papa time to change from his papal robes into a suit allowing more movement and, thus, a more energetic second half of the set.
Papa addressed politics only briefly, noting the two candidates’ presence in the city. “It’s a big day for you tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a big day for all of us.”
Then it was back to the music, with the thunderous “Mummy Dust,” accompanied by cannons shooting confetti and dollar bills emblazoned with Papa’s skull-like visage. The epic “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” brought the house down, and “Ritual” felt like an ending, complete with the ghouls saying their goodbyes at its conclusion. But Papa never left the stage, and the band quickly returned for its customary show-closer, “Monstrance Clock,” which Papa explained as a celebration of the female orgasm.
There isn’t another band today quite like Ghost, combining topnotch songs with an ingenious theatrical presentation and a mystique that somehow still remains in this age of everyone having all the information in the world at their fingertips at all times. See Ghost in the 2,000-seaters while you can; the shows only will get bigger from here.
“From the Pinnacle to the Pit”
“Con Clavi Con Dio:
“Per Aspera Ad Inferi”
“Body and Blood”