It has been just over a year since I have seen Ghost, since then the band has been surrounded in controversy in regards to shocking line up changes and band members releasing their identities to the public. The Popestar 2017 tour has had fans biting their finger nails in anticipation of seeing how this supposed new line up does live. I can tell you right now that your worries are not necessary.
If you have read any of my previous show reviews, you know the score by now. The bus trip down to Glasgow was slow and tedious. The hotel was incredibly over priced for what they offer and the rain wouldn’t stay in the clouds for us who like to join the queue early. Naturally we met some interesting people in the queue. We had lots of discussions about our favourite bands, Iron Maiden’s neglect of Blaze Bayley, his stunning solo material and many other interesting subjects.
The venue staff were the usual friendly bunch. They even let me in a little earlier to scale their hefty staircase due to my unfortunate disabilities. The venue was hotter than a sauna, stank of stale sweat and looked like a confetti ball exploded in the place (more on that later). The stage was cramped with multiple keyboard, amp and drum kit line ups but looked tidy and quite presentable considering the conditions.
To my surprise, a lot of the crowd were already cramped in the venue to see the opening band Zombi. I tell you, it was hot enough in there without a thousand people all squished into one little venue. Everyone seemed to have been in a good mood, buzzing with energy and some were even frothing from the mouth (any other moist openings) at the thought of seeing Ghost live in concert.
Zombi hit the stage and barely said a word before they blasted into their heavy keyboard progressive music. I may not be the most in touch with younger bands, but this kind of group is a definite odd choice for an opening slot for Ghost. The two man band put on a good set, the bands drummer pounded his drums with a lot of conviction and the bassist/keyboard player had a good sound, a good sense of melody and had a fantastic bass guitar sound.
The problem is that the style of music just seemed too much of a contrast to what we were initially there to see. The sound came across as Emerson Lake & Palmer light and would have suited a more seated venue to compensate for the more relaxed vibes that their songs produced. I also felt that the music was lacking in terms of live musicianship. Steve Moore is a really good bassist and I personally feel that their set would have been a lot more entertaining if he stuck to that instrument for the entire set with a full time keyboard player filling in. It would give the “synthwave” duo more room to experiment and improvise live, it would have most definitely improved their live performance. The crowd seemed to have either loved or hated the support bands slot and I can fully understand why. But I won’t say anything bad against them. Their sound was excellent and they did a great job considering.
Much like Ghost’s previous visit to Glasgow, the crowd were absolutely buzzing when the stage was cleared and the drum/keyboard riser was revealed. By this point, it was clear that the venue was full. Despite being cramped, everyone seemed to respect each other’s space and for a change, I saw no real incidents, fist fights or general drunken foolishness. It was very, very refreshing to say the least. Whilst all this was going on the crew set the mood by playing soft classical music over the sound system (do this more often I say) and drowned the venue with incense sticks.
After being absolutely drowned out by the smoke machine (the first of many times), the lights dipped and the crowd just erupted in cheers, screams and applause. Ghost came on stage playing their recent hit single, Square Hammer from the Popestar extended play. This new song sounds fantastic live but was sadly the only song from the record that was played in concert. Many of the crowd were hoping to hear Bible live, sadly that will have to be for another place and time.
Ghost played a lot of songs from their previous two full length albums and were just as solid as they were in 2015. The guitars were perfectly in sync, the drums and bass pounded out a rock solid rhythm. You would never know with the performances of From The Pinnacle to the Pit, Secular Haze and Con Clavi Con Dio that this was a completely different band line up from the Meliora tour. Papa Emeritus was his usual charming self, amusing the crowd with his soft voice, amusing gestures and between song banter.
In typical Ghost style, the ritual of Body And Blood went ahead as it always does with the front row sharing a little red wine between them. Then came an incredibly heavy rendition of Cirice with its thunderous riff and rhythm smoothly transitioning into Year Zero. After this we got to take a breather for a minute only for the band to blast us with the four track smack of He Is, Absolution, Mummy Dust and Ghuleh/Zombie Queen. A big sing a long moment for the crowd and easily some of their heaviest music to date. They work really well together, flowed from one song to the other with little to no stoppage time. Somewhere in all this madness we were blasted with even more smoke and endless amounts of confetti that featured Ghost’s own 666 money bills, these had crowd members scrambling for a great souvenir (thanks Sumer!) The show finished off with Ritual and the traditional Monstrance Clock. The lights eventually came back up to another piece of classical music and everyone just sort of stood still for a moment trying to gather their breath and sense of reality.
It was clear from the moment the crowd stood and gave the band a very polite personal ovation that even with the suspected line up changes and band trouble, the band pulled out all the stops with great success and did so with a lot of professionalism. The entire crowd appeared to be smiling from face to face, hugging each other in sheer joy and even some tears were shed. Going to a Ghost concert is clearly a great emotional pleasure for a lot of people and it is not every day that I can understand why they would feel this way. But after seeing my second Ghost concert, I too was grinning like a Catholic priest in a boys only school and felt the kind of happiness that very few bands can deliver.
As I said in the previous Ghost show review, these guys deliver something that is very hard to put into words. Some people don’t buy into the band because they see the gimmick and instantly write it off. But others can see the effort that is put into such a solid performance, the effort put into such an excellent stage show and many clearly enjoy the more relaxed environment that you just don’t get at a metal show in our time. The package as a whole makes Ghost one of the best concert tickets of 2017. If you have the chance to see this show, I couldn’t recommend it more (again).