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Concert Report: Ghost
House of Blues, Las Vegas
Oct 31st, 2015

Report and pics by T. Ray Verteramo.  |  Published: Nov 6th, 2015
Papa Emeritus III
Papa Emeritus III

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.

The House of Blues' cathedral opened at 8:00 pm and the congregation did not straggle. Mini "Papa Emerituses IV, V, through XX," as well as a few "King Diamonds," and slew of nuns of every flavor – cross-dressing, pregnant, possessed, trampy, and bloody – made their appearances.

That's the thing about Halloween here; it's pretty much just another day in Vegas.

By 8:15, the floor of the venue was already taking the weight of full capacity before the opening act. For those who have not been spooked by the Ghost, it was an unexpected phenomenon. However, as the night progressed, the unexpected was exactly on the menu and it was a lot to swallow.

The warm-up act this evening was…in Ghost costumes. This confused the drunks and amused the rest of us. The "Papa," of much smaller and dainty stature, swung the incense censor to applause and introduced the band, in a semi-adequate impersonation, as The Spice Ghouls. The strangers' humor instantly scored some points and they were able to win over the audience before they even played a note. After their first psycha-dollic, far-out rock number, they revealed themselves as Purson from London. With inverted classic riffs and dynamic changes, this very tight, fun, charming, and unusual act wooed and warmed the crowd. Those Purson people made a friend of Vegas.

After the front set was struck down, Ghost's simple, efficient stage set was illuminated in the blue and grey lowlights. The stage design was masterfully executed. In front of the beautifully detailed backdrop of the devil in white man features, flanked by "wealth" and "seduction," was just a three step rise, a covered drum kit on stage left and covered keyboards stage right. Nestled beneath and between were portable lighting rigs which gave the area a very neat, pristine look. The clean angles and use of space framed the intricate, romantic line-art of the backdrop exquisitely. Meanwhile, the lack of clutter and the few extra landings gave the band plenty of room to play.

Ghost's gimmick as the orthodox clergy of Satan is so over-the-top, it incites either love or hate. Their adamant adherance to immaculate anonymity in name and face, beyond corpsepaint (or at least as immaculate as possible) can make your eyes pop or roll. Regardless, their image as "clergy" or "clowns," whichever your take may be, have been instrumental to exposing their instrumentals. And Ghost's music is very comparable to their stage set – elegant in design, but brutal in context.

Live, the act is taken even more to the extreme, as their road crew is dressed and working as deacons; Black blazers, ties, "G" crosses, and all.

Either they have a portable launderer on the bus or they bought out every yard of polyester in three countries…

Nameless Ghoul
Nameless Ghoul
However, a curious note regarding the stage set: Accented on either side of the proscenium, in front of burning sticks of incense, were two very suspicious microphones facing out into the audience. Unable to reach a "deacon" for comment, the head of security for the House of Blues was able to confirm that he had seen this before and stated they are "rigged for recording." Usually the purpose is for production quality control. Their presence, however, is suggestive.

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
Devil Church
Year Zero
He Is
Mummy Dust
Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)

Monstrance Clock

Ghost Official
Ghost Facebook

Ghost on Stephen Colbert Show

[Other Maximum Metal Columns]

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