Charlotte area rock disciples gathered at Ovens Auditorium this past Sunday evening to celebrate high mass with the Swedish rock band Ghost. The Grammy Award winning band is out touring in support of their latest album, “Prequelle,” and made a stop here in the Queen City on the A Pale Tour Named Death tour. Since its inception, Ghost has grown from a small club act to headlining theaters and is known for their elaborate theatricality. The on stage presence of the band is led by lead singer and mastermind Tobias Forge who has taken on the identity of various religious characters over the years, including three anti-Pope figureheads known as Papa Emeritus I, II, and III, and his fourth incarnation as the current Cardinal Copia. The rest of the band are known as the Nameless Ghouls and wear matching costumes, faces concealed with elaborate ghoul masks. As I approached the venue, fans were out in full force with many dressed in character. Looking around, I saw many dressed as ghouls with masks and long robes while others were dressed as Forge’s Cardinal Copia identity complete or prior Papa Emiritus characters complete with face paint. There were a lot of attendees in various stages of Ghost apparel and even a few nuns thrown into the mix. Outside the theater, fans were greeted by several protesters who were playing traditional Christmas music and passing out religious tracts while making feeble attempts to convert concert goers by yelling and screaming that they were going to hell. Not the best way to spread the love and peace, but nobody seemed to be bothered by it. Ever since Elvis Presley shook his hips in “sinful” fashion, people have been finding something to gripe about when it comes to rock and roll. Over the years bands like KISS, Alice Cooper, and Marilyn Manson have taken the heat. I guess this year it’s Ghost’s turn in the hot seat.
The theater was completely sold out with not an empty seat in sight as fans prepared for the evening’s entertainment. This tour Ghost did not have an opening band and split their set into two acts, playing for well over two hours in total. As the venue lights dimmed, a taped intro began to play before the stage lit up revealing an elaborate church stage set up as the band dove head first into “Ashes.” The rear of the stage resembled the stained glass windows of a church with the image of Cardinal Copia on it. There was a set of stairs in the middle with the drum kit set up on top stage right and the keyboards stage left. The Nameless Ghouls are all accomplished musicians and tore into the set list with precision and skill. Forge was the evil priestly genius in his black tuxedo tails with a prosthetic face mask and blacked out eye makeup. The image was delightfully eerie but also beautiful as Cardinal Copia’s vocals soared throughout the venue. There are some bands who compensate for their lack of talent with an elaborate stage show but that is not the case with Ghost. With their brilliant blending of hard rock and progressive rock combined with a healthy dose of classical influence, their music could easily stand on its own, no theatrics needed. But the two combined, make for one hell of a rock show. The first act of the evening featured the return of the Papa Nihil character for an energetic saxophone solo on “Miasma,” and the acoustic “Jigolo Har Megiddo,” during which three of the Nameless Ghouls were seated on the stairs with their instruments.
After a brief intermission, Act @ took it to a whole new level with the audience and the band tearing things up with “From the Pinnacle to the Pit.” Forge took the time to address the crowd at various times mentioning the protestors and the need for everyone to help and support each other and show the love. If only the protestors could hear him, they would have been very surprised. My personal favorite “Mummy Dust” had the confetti cannons blasting the audience with tons of confetti that kept circling the theater thanks to the air conditioning system that was turned on during an unusually warm December day. Ghost closed things out with one of their biggest hits “Square Hammer” before waving and exiting the stage. As shouts of “Ghost! Ghost!” began to be chanted around the venue, the band returned for one final tune. A song that Forge described as having to do with a female orgasm, “Monstrance Clock.” It was a phenomenal rock show by one of the most talented and unique bands out there. Do not miss your chance to worship with the almighty Ghost when they make a stop in a city near you.
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Jigolo Har Megiddo
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)
We would like to thank Selena Fragassi from FR-PR for the credentials to review the show.