Show review written by William Dibble. Photography by Rei Haycraft.
On the night that the Swedish doom metal superstars Ghost graced the stage of The Ritz in Raleigh, NC the doors opened precisely on time, allowing the large crowd to quickly fill the venue. The lights went out, then slowly faded in with dim, violet lighting centered on the evening’s only opening act, Marissa Nadler.
Introducing herself as “the calm before the storm,” singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler showcased an amazing voice combined with a guitar, loop pedals, and reverb to produce haunting melodies that twirled and danced around the venue. Her voice was slow and beautiful, resonating with the ambiance and fitting in perfectly with the music. Her music is very reminiscent of traits commonly found in the post-rock movement, though her vocals added something a little extra to it. She had another musician with her playing a lap steel, an instrument not frequently seen. He provided extra melodies, using the lap steel to smoothly change notes and rhythms. At the end, the audience seemed to be left deeply and profoundly satisfied, both with her performance and the venue.
Soon the house music started up, and the wait began. The anticipation was almost palpable as the lights began to dim, and a Gregorian chant began over the PA. The audience waited until 9:00pm on the dot, and three techs came out from the behind the impressive staging. The ritual had begun.
The three men faced each other, walking solemnly to stage center, and bowed lightly, before removing sheets from the stairs, drums, and keyboard. They faced one another, bowed, and left. Then, another tech came out and bowed to loud applause. He sat down at the drum set, and began to test each one with a slow, methodical beat. Once he finished, he left, and the chanting continued. At precisely 9:15pm, the chanting changed. A Ghoul could be seen taking his place on the drums, and then the keyboard… Then the bass and guitars came out, and Ghost launched into the thundering opening for “Square Hammer.” Papa Emeritus III emerged moments later in his full papal regalia, making a perfect entrance.
The sound was perfect. Their stage presence was astounding. Despite being quintessentially anonymous, each Ghoul has a distinct attitude, personality, and feel. Papa’s voice was spot on, with imperious glances thrown around the room between grand hand gestures. As their opener wound down, the band didn’t even stop for a moment as the bass line heavy, bluesy rhythms and sounds of, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit.” The audience seemed to know almost every word, following along flawlessly. From there, the band moved into “Secular Haze.”
Throughout the show, Papa weaved a story with somber yet humorous hand gestures and facial expressions. His signature facial paint is amazingly expressive. Throughout, Ghost performed parodies of various Catholic traditions, including carrying around a censer during one song. Finally, he ran off stage during an intro to a song. When he emerged, Papa had ditched the religious getup and was dressed in a nice tuxedo. This costume change also signaled a change in the show’s tone as well; Papa Emeritus was no longer a religious figure talking down to the audience, but a member of family. His manners were no longer formal. Instead, they were familiar, equal to equal.
They paused between two songs to remind the audience of their pending elections, encouraging them to “make the right choice”, dedicating “Mummy Dust”, a song about the corrupting power of money, to an undeclared candidate. For the song’s finale, they showered everybody in patriotic red, white, and blue confetti.
At another point, his “Sisters of Sin” joined the crowd to share the Body and Blood, as Ghost played the namesake. Papa humorously asked the crowd if the women would like to get physical with him, before declaring his sisters would get physical with the audience… “but not in the way that you are thinking, no. It is a question of behavior. You see, even if you can reach… Do not grab them…” using hand gestures to indicate that he meant groping. “Do not lick their fingers.” He then sent the Sisters of Sin through the photographer’s pit to visit the front rows of the audience.
As the concert neared its end, the entire group joined together and bowed, then departed the stage… except for Papa Emeritus. The esteemed priest of Satan took a seat in the center of the stage and asked who’d seen them before and who hadn’t. He spoke with a light, jovial tone, then saying that every concert should end with a sort of orgasm. He spoke at length about the nature of the female orgasm and its history in being deemed “evil” by many religions, but not theirs. Papa entertained the audience with his flowing rhetoric, complete with hilarious hand gestures and facial expressions, before inviting the band back on stage for their entrancing encore song, “Monstrance Clock.”
The lights and atmosphere were perfect throughout until the end. They are clearly practiced and seasoned professionals, knowing how to please and engage the audience from beginning to end—and have fun while doing it. This places them in a pantheon of great performers that includes the likes of Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, and SlipKnoT.
For more information about Ghost, visit their website at www.Ghost-Official.com
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