Toledo, Ohio (February 15,2022)- As the lights dimmed Tuesday night in the Huntington Center, there was a different vibe in the air, something you would not usually feel at a metal show. Sure, it really is just a concert per se, but an evening with Ghost is a musical experience unlike any other you are likely to attend now or in the future.
With a stage setup cloaked with a gothic-looking cathedral, massive drum risers and a pair of short risers in the wings for spotlighting guitar solos, Ghost opened the set with the crunchy rocker “Kaisarion,” a impressive heavy hitter from the band’s fifth full-length studio album Impera. As the white translucent curtain fell revealing the band of eight Nameless Ghouls and Ghoulettes, the crowd rose to their feet in full anticipation of the arrival of Papa Emeritus IV, Ghosts coronated leader. Papa IV is the fifth incarnation and current character played by frontman extraordinaire Tobias Forge, who previously appeared as the more visually chilling Papa Emeritus I,II and III along with Cardinal Copia in the characters lineage.
Papa Emeritus IV, who wears a prosthetic mask with blackened eyes, brings a charming but humorous side laden with a heavy European accent which is apparent as he is addressing the crowd. Forges’ masterful delivery is silky smooth and he simply has his way with the audience whether being comical or enthusiastically introducing a song by asking “are you ready to get your asses kicked?” In stark contrast however, the band itself, aptly referred to as the Nameless Ghouls, wear Steam-Punk inspired head gear adorned with the requisite horns that conceal their true identity from the masses. As has been noted in the past, the Grammy-winning band does not cover the new material during studio sessions, but does tour as Ghost for live performances. One of the beauties of this arrangement is the bands precise sound which pulls from the classic heavy hitters of the rock genre and lends to a very pleasing heavier, metal leaning sound during their live performances.
Tonight’s 90-minute setlist was a genre-stretching affair that touched on all four previous Ghost albums along with two cuts from the upcoming Impera (March 2022). Traditional hard rockers “Rats,” “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Cirice,” satisfied the metalheads in attendance, while “Miasma,” which was much more vibrant, showcased two of the Ghouls laying down some smoking hot guitar licks stage front. Other favorites such as “Mary On A Cross,” a cut that could be just as appealing on adult contemporary SiriusXM station as it would be on the hard rock format Octane, took on a edgy feel with a more distinctive, much heavier sound than what the casual fan might have expected. In fact, Ghost’s overall sound was punchier and more aesthetically pleasing than anything we have heard live from them previously. Radio stalwart “Hunters Moon,” a song Ghost provided last year for the soundtrack to “Halloween Kills,” took on a different persona highlighted by the extended guitar solos and the multi-layered progressions that are often overlooked during casual listening.
Papa Emeritus IV likes to share the spotlight occasionally while onstage and the Ghoulettes finally had their turn during the progressive instrumental “Helvetesfonster,” which showcased their immense talent on keyboards. Tantalizing and distinctive, it does nothing to discredit the notion that keyboards belong in metal genre. Forge also mixed in a few crowd favorite sing-a-longs directly targeted to involve their rabid fans, “Faith” and the dark yet sinister “Year Zero,” had the near capacity venue on their feet and singing back at the stage word for word.
What has become somewhat of a tradition during “Mummy Dust,” a multitude of confetti cannons shot out Papa dollars worth $666 into the air that had fans young and old scrambling for one of the unique treasures. These Papa Dollars have become cherished collectables being sold and traded amongst fans worldwide.
Forge finished the evenings main set off with a crowd pleasing cover of Metallica’s, “Enter Sandman” and the 2019 mega hit, “Dance Macabre,” much to the delight of the appreciative crowd. After a short breather off stage, the night came to a thrilling conclusion with one of Ghosts biggest hits, “Square Hammer.” It’s about as joyous a shout out to the Devil as you’ll find in the rock world that is fully encompassed by an electrifying experience that quite simply is nothing more than a good dose of rock and roll fun.
Under normal circumstances, music aficionados will voice their displeasure for most artists who have their live performances choreographed, but this is Ghost and they don’t fall prey to the same innuendo. The show in itself has so much more substance than any typical concert you may attend. It’s a hybrid rock opera, sequential musical and a satanic rock ritual all rolled into one mesmerizing, thoroughly entertaining performance. Each time this unique band hits the road, the venues get bigger and their fan base grows larger and larger. Ghost’s arena shows are loud, full of unbridled energy and loaded with outstanding songs. Pop and metal have long found common ground in a shared love of over-the-top pageantry and fanfare. One would be hard pressed to find anyone better at delivering that then Tobias Forge and his anonymous crew who combined form Ghost. “Are you with us?” he yells. The answer from the floor and everyone who is lucky enough to attend a “Ritual” is an overwhelming yes!
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