Gig Review: Ghost

O2 ABC 18/12/15

by Fraser Bryce


I’m going to go on record now as saying that Ghost are the best rock band to emerge in the last decade. I was initially drawn in by the mystery that surrounds the band – for those that are unaware, the members of Ghost consist of Papa Emeritus III and five Nameless Ghouls – but their mix of Black Sabbath style riffs, accompanied by Abba-esque melodies and the occasional foray into territories that resemble musical theatre grabbed my attention more than any other band has recently. While I have seen Ghost a number of times at festivals and as a supporting act, I had yet to experience a full headline show. So when they announced a show at the best sounding venue in Glasgow, I was practically frothing at the mouth.

Apparently I was not alone; the show sold out months in advance. The atmosphere inside the venue was electric, with many of the crowd donning Papa’s make up or Nameless Ghoul masks, a practice normally reserved for iconic bands such as Kiss and AC/DC. When the lights finally dim following the twelve minute intro tape, the 80’s B-Movie keyboards of ‘Spirit’ invoke a rapturous response. When the Nameless Ghouls appear, this time donning silver masks and robes instead of their usual hooded attire, excitement whirs into overdrive. One of the many clever things about a Ghost show is that you are so focussed on what is happening on stage, you don’t notice things like guitar techs running about or a man dressed as a demon Pope walking on stage. Seriously, it was like Papa Emeritus appeared out of nowhere. The ensuing set is honestly one of the best shows I have seen recently, possibly ever. Starting the evening with heavier material, like the bass heavy ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ and the irresistible stomp of ‘Ritual’ provides a nice transition into the newer and more theatrical material such as the string-led ‘Body and Blood’ – which includes nuns handing out communion wafers and wine to the front row – and the bombastic ‘Cirice’.

The setlist tonight focusses largely on the latest album, ‘Meliora’, with a healthy amount of 2013’s ‘Infesstisumam’ thrown in for good measure, with just two songs from their debut album aired, both in the first twenty minutes of the show. Normally I would complain about a band doing this – I’m probably doing it somewhere else on this page in fact – but with the sheer quality of material this band have, I barely noticed. Songs like ‘Year Zero’ and ‘Mummy Dust’ – which sees one of the Nameless Ghouls donning a keytar – are better than anything Black Sabbath have done in about thirty years, and the rousing ‘Absolution’ alone could justify the band playing bigger venues. One of the real highlights comes in the form of the Johnny Cash-like ‘He Is’, which takes on a magical quality live, and their use of the massive disco ball that adorns the ABC is inspired. The main set closes with the surf-rock of ‘Zombie Queen’ and the Blue Oyster Cult-like ‘If You Have Ghosts’. As with every Ghost show I have ever seen, the band finish with ‘Monstrance Clock’, and the band exit the stage in complete darkness, not even saying their thanks or goodbyes. For any other band, this would be a dick move. But this comes from a band so secretive about their identities that Dave Grohl joined them for a show and no one even noticed.

I can honestly say that this show was one of the best I have ever seen. It had been a while since I had seen a band that could marry spectacle and songs so well, with neither factor detracting from the other. While they may not be destined for the biggest venues, Ghost are on their way up in a big way and, quite frankly, the idea that the best is yet to come from this band is a frightening prospect.