C O L U M N S
Concert Report: Ghost
Halloween/Samhain is the time to pay homage for those who wander beyond the mortal
veil. For most of western civilization, it's time to dress up and mess up. But, for Las
Vegas, it was time to go to church.
At 10:02, the lights shift, smoke rises and the two shrouds covering the drums and the keyboards are ceremoniously lifted. The pre-recorded church choir takes over speakers, invoking spirits in Latin or backwards English. At 10:10 the stage is bathed in red, then pitch black. After a breath of silence, the Star Trek-y intro for "Spirit" begins to play and an explosion of thrill blows the roof off the House as the Nameless Ghouls take their places. When Papa Emeritus III graces the stage in open arms and flowing robes, the screams of love become so saturating, the band could not be heard at all until after the first chorus.
But, when the volume subsides and the parishioners begin to sing along, the guitars ring crisp just above the tremulous rhythm section, but overwhelm the keyboards. These ticks were caught and corrected immediately and the show commenced flawlessly from that point.
The unexpected about seeing Ghost live has nothing to do with lack of stage props or bodies falling from the rigging or vaudeville tricks. You are not going to see ritual virgin sacrifices or monsters pop out from behind the curtain. This is most likely because there is no need for it; you're already immersed in living theatre as it is. In fact, the "experiment" of having local "nuns" give communion to the audience, though interesting in theory, was rather awkward. The ladies they chose were lovely and seemed determined to do well. However, with such a clockwork production as Ghost have put together, having amateurs thrown into the machine only made the atmosphere ill at ease. The poor girl who had to pour the wine was trembling so uncontrollably with nerves that it left a feeling of sadness, not fun. But, the awkward moment was fleeting.
After the first few rows received communion during "Body and Blood" and "Devil Church," the first riffs of "Cirice" played and the world beyond the lights disappeared again.
It needs to be said that Ghost is not a group of clones. This band is made up of strong, genuine performers so demonstrative that even from beneath the monotone layers of costume and metallic helmets, their personalities and talents outshone their garb. One of the reasons given for the hoods to begin with, other than for pure dramatic purposes, was so the musicianship would be highlighted, rather than have the media be preoccupied with their appearances. The tactic works to a great degree. But, after such charged deliveries of "Pinnacle to the Pit," "Ritual," and "Majesty," their own spirits emanated and projected their individual selves. As time progressed, the connection between floor, balcony, and stage became more personal than such armor would typically allow.
It takes a real artist to pull that off. And there were five of them.
Then, there's the master of ceremonies, Papa Emeritus, himself. Though he's no virtuoso, he is still a potent vocalist in his own right and he held his own beautifully throughout. But, what truly makes him remarkable is his impeccable sense of theatre. Embracing his role as royalty, storyteller, conductor, judge, and jury, his ingenious use of non-verbal communication sets him apart from any other front-person in Rock and Metal. The piercing, deliberate eye contact, the titillating twiddling of his fingers, shameless gestures laced with class and dignity makes him enchanting. Papa is sensual, playful, serious, deleterious, funny, and irresistible, perfectly cast in this gargantuan play.
Putting on a seamless, captivating show just one night after performing on Late Night with Stephen Colbert is beyond impressive. This is no circus. These are no clowns. They deserve their success and have earned respect. We're going to be "hearing the rumble" for a very, very long time.
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Body and Blood
If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)
RANDOM ACTS OF METAL