Ghost: Welcome to the Spectacle

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‘Welcome to the Spectacle’- Tobias Forge eerily addresses his audience after his band take to the stage. Ghost, consisting of seven ‘Nameless Ghouls’ and Cardinal Copia (played by the aforementioned Forge) is a Swedish pop-metal band which imitates the Roman Catholic Church in their ritualistic lyrics and Cathedral-like set. The elaborate stage consists of endless lights, smoke machines, confetti and pyrotechnics, all used to great effect throughout the show, and I mean show quite literally.

Ghost is unlike any other concert I’ve been to in that there is almost equal weight resting on the show’s dynamics and theatrics as the music itself. With that being said, don’t underestimate the power that the call-and-response-esque songs hold over a captivated Welsh audience. Opening with the catchy Rats, Ghost continue through a densely packed hour and forty-five-minute set complete with guitar duels and witch doctors, resembling a more Satanic version of an Alice Cooper band. Highlights include Spirit, where the audience is first introduced to the green smoke that fills the stage, making it almost impossible to identify any band members and the disco beat of Dance Macabre, a suitably genre-denying penultimate hit before the finale, Square Hammer. However, two moments that demand attention are both the entire duration of Year Zero, which enticed observers to chant its Satanic lyrics with a bombardment of pyro, red lights and matching smoke, and the final minute of Miasma, in which, just like on the album, Papa Nihil bursts onto the stage to shred the saxophone solo, all live.  

The Cardinal himself goes through four wardrobe changes throughout the performance, yet never does the show feel like it rests on his involvement. The Nameless Ghouls, despite being identical in their all black attire and silver masks, hold their own during instrumentals, and the ambitious ten-minute guitar solos never feel forced, unlike some big-name rockers today. Ghost’s music is chorus heavy, but you don’t quite realise the silliness of it all until after the show. Fire, flashing lights and a man in Bishop’s attire shredding on a saxophone turns a Ghost spectacle into somewhat of a metal pantomime, but the audience is never deluded, they joyously scream when prompted and not once did I find myself thinking, should I really be enjoying this silliness?

The way in which Ghost engages its audience is split between two roles. On the one hand, Forge actively converses with the audience and welcomes them to his ritual, and on the other, Nameless Ghouls, who are so creepy in their deadpan address that one finds it impossible to look away, despite them almost never directly addressing anyone. Ghost, out of all the bands I’ve seen, are easily the best at audience interaction. Forge holds an authority over the band that, in other instances, would appear selfish, such as the final moment of him bowing in a spotlight with no Ghouls in sight. However, the way the entire band are treated throughout means that by the end, each Ghoul has had their own moment of glory; a team effort rather than a solo performance. The tour is Ghost’s largest and most ambitious endeavour, but at no point do they seem intimidated by larger audiences, inherited after earning the highly sort after position of supporting Metallica on the European leg of their WorldWired tour. Ghost’s fanbase has grown, and it was clear on Sunday that there was a real mix of both newcomers and welcoming die-hard fans who’ve been around since their first album, Opus Eponymous, in 2010.

Ghost are, in my opinion, rather unique. Never did I think before I first saw them on that WorldWired tour that heavy metal and pop music would be even vaguely compatible, let alone fuse so well. The two genres cumulate into a night of illusion, pantomime and spectacle concocted by masked Ghouls and the charismatic Cardinal, leaving the audience wanting more.

All pictures copyright Ghost