Anyway roll on a few years and here have Ghost selling out this old theater in the heart of London's west end, with plenty of people outside looking for tickets. The band actually played in December of 2015, a gig which I wanted to attend, but alas it sold out before I could move my fat ass to get a ticket. So when I saw that the band would be returning again so soon I quickly snapped up a ticket. One point to note the ticket price was less than half what Dream Theater charged for a show at the exact same venue.
My view of the stage was again in the upper circle as the stalls had already sold out by the time I bought my ticket. This time I was sitting on the opposite side to where I was for DT. The view is quite good as long as the band don't approach the front of the stage too much. DT tended to stay in their spots so you had a great view but Ghost are a much more active band and prowl the stage here there and everywhere so it was hard to seem them at times.
There was one support band listed, the aptly named Poltergeist. I actually searched them on youtube and managed to find a video to one of their songs. It turns out they were an instrumental artsy fartsy type band playing a sort of unstructured deep, Avant Garde type of metal. Well I say metal, but it's not really metal to me. It was played really loud and with random, hypnotic guitar noise and no melody whatsoever. There was reasonably polite applause between each piece but their 30-40 minute set couldn't end soon enough for me. One of the most boring support slots I have ever seen. What's wrong with trying to get a cool retro rock band as support? Poltergeist were awful. Apparently they had a similar band supporting at the December Koko gig as well. I guess they don't wanna be upstaged!
Not that there was any chance of that happening! Finally the lights went down and eerie church choir music was played with a foreboding nature to it called Miserere Mei, Deus and a further taped song called Masked Ball, which served as intro as the nameless ghouls took their positions before Papa strode on to rapturous cheers and the band started up Spirit from Meliora. The sound was a bit boomy at the start and far too bass heavy and you couldn't hear the guitars properly. But the song is just an awesome start and sung by most of the packed Palladium.
That grooving bass soon heralded the arrival of massively cool From the Pinnacle to the Pit and now the band was starting to hit their stride. The chorus in that song is a monstrous thing of beauty and melody and when the whole audience sings along it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Of course the band would be playing songs from their previous two records soon enough and I must admit they made the older tunes sound really good as well. I've not been into their previous albums but somehow I might have to go back and give them another chance. I was really taken with the older tunes. Per Aspera Ad Inferi with it's stomping riffs and chanted chorus really sounded mighty. Body and Blood was very melodic too and it surprised me how much I enjoyed that.
Cirice was a massive highlight of course with it's super creepy vibe. It's funny 'cause at first I used to think Ghost were quite a serious band, but this Papa comes across as kind of goofy sounding. He is creepy but he always has his tongue firmly in his cheek with some of his banter. They don't come across as evil satan, more like a grinning, smirking satan if you will!
The band was on top form now as the set wore on with more classics and sing along anthems to the horned one from Hades. Absolution sounded great and Mummy Dust was perhaps the heaviest song of the night. I don't like it on record all that much but live it came in to its own with a very special and evil vocal from Papa. If yo have Ghosts is not a song I am familiar with but it sees Papa introducing each ghoul to the crowd. To be honest it was a bit too long winded for my taste. They were sitting on the edge of the drum riser playing acoustics whilst Papa was walking round telling jokes and singing the song in between introductions. The song parts were actually quite nice and melodic but all the talking and that took virtually 20 minutes. Personally introductions should take no more than 5 minutes and they could've used that time to play two more songs at least.
My fave song from the new album He Is, was almost like a religious experience. Papa urges the whole crowd to sing along and they didn't need any prompting either to sing that hymn like chorus to the dark lord. Older song Ritual which I think I heard a long time ago and didn't like was oddly amazing live. If I went back and listened to it on record I'd probably still not like it, but the live performance was magnificent. The final track of the night was Monstrance Clock and Papa said that they always save the best for last and introduced it as the band's best song. I'm not so sure about that but I have to admit that once again the live version far super cedes the studio one. The crowd pretty much adored Ghost from the first till the last and they left to rapturous warm applause and cheers just as they had entered the stage.
Strangely enough their live set up is not as gimmicky as you would think. It's quite a simple thing really and not too flashy. They were their gear and that but their stage persona is not really menacing or evil at all or that's not a vibe I get at all. They basically let the music do the talking although this Papa is quite a verbose guy it has to be said and pretty humorous although some of the Swedish humour is perhaps lost in translation sometimes. This gig was one of the best I will attend this year no doubt, although the Palladium seats are a bit of a disaster if you're above 5'8" with leg room non existent! If you haven't seen Ghost live I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance, you won't regret it.
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Stand by Him
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Body and Blood
If You Have Ghosts
(Roky Erickson cover)