Less than twenty-four hours after their show in Milwaukee was abruptly canceled due to a medical emergency which ultimately led to the passing of an audience member, Ghost was back in action Friday night in St. Paul, celebrating the release of their fourth studio album, Prequelle. The sold-out show was part of their “Rats! On The Road” tour, named after the lead single from the new album.
Ghost, a heavy metal band hailing from Linköping, Sweden, is easily recognizable owing greatly to its eccentric on-stage presence. Six of the group’s seven members, its ‘Nameless Ghouls,’ wear virtually identical, face-concealing costumes. Lead singer, Tobias Forge, also obscured his identity behind the character “Papa Emeritus.” The character, which consists of Forge in a prosthetic mask and makeup can be best described as a ‘demonic anti-pope.’ The Papa Emeritus Character has gone through four incarnations – I, II, III, and Nihil.
As of the 2018 album, Prequelle, and subsequent world tour, Forge portrays a character known as “Cardinal Copia,” who is described as being unrelated to any of the Papa Emeritus characters and whose costume consists of either Cardinal vestments or a black tuxedo alongside a prosthetic mask with black eye makeup and the multi-colored eyes which had been present in each Papa character.
Starting around 9:00 pm, the Palace was first filled with the ominous sounds of “Klara stjärnor” a song written by Jan Johansson in the 1960’s, and then with “Miserere Mei, Deus” which is Latin for “Have mercy on me, O God,” a psalm originally composed for the choirs of the Sistine Chapel during Pope Urban VIII’s reign in the 1630’s.
After the two-song intro, the lights finally went down and the curtains raised revealing all seven members of Ghost on stage. The sinister sounds of the children’s choir featured on Prequelle’s opening track, “Ashes,” engulfed the audience. The band then launched into “Rats” and the show was officially off and running.
The high point of the show (at least for me!) was during their performance of the song “Miasma.” About three-quarters of the way through the song, a saxophone-wielding Papa Nihil was pushed out on stage in a wheelchair accompanied by two women dressed as nuns. As the saxophone solo approached, Nihil jumped up from his chair and performed an absolutely flawless 30-second-plus solo to the overwhelming elation of the crowd. As he performed the closing notes, he collapsed back into his chair and was quietly escorted away, never to be seen again.
The twenty-four song set lasted about two and a half hours, including a fifteen-minute intermission so everyone in the crowd could “freshen up and take a piss” according to Tobias, who also went on to admit that it was mostly so that he could take a shower in the middle of the show.
As the night began to come to a close, Ghost performed a cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts” which featured a roughly five-minute breakdown/jam session so Tobias could introduce each member of the band. However, since we don’t know the actual identities of these ‘Nameless Ghouls’ it was simply Tobias saying “And now on (fill in the instrument) A GHOUL!” which was honestly more entertaining than it sounds.
Finishing up the night with performances of “Dance Macabre” & “Square Hammer” the band briefly left the stage before returning to close out the night with an encore performance of “Monstrance Clock” from this second album, Infestissuman. Suddenly, the lights went out, and we were left in a totally dark room with the sounds of the 1988 Dead Can Dance song “The Host of Seraphim.”
Then, just as Papa Nihil was wheeled out to never be seen again, Ghost was gone and the night had officially come to an end. As everyone started to spill out onto the streets, nothing but the sweet lullabies of Lucifer were left ringing in my head. Until next time, “He’s the shining and the light without whom I cannot see….”
Ghost: Palace Theatre, June 1st, 2018 Setlist
- Klara Stjärnor (Jan Johansson song)
- Miserere Mei, Deus (Gregorio Allegri song)
- Con Clavi Con Dio
- Per Aspera ad Inferi
- Devil Church
- Stand By Him
- Miasma (Papa Nihil Sax Solo!)
- Jigolo Har Megiddo (Acoustic)
- Pro Memoria
- Dues in Absentia
- Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
- From the Pinnacle to the Pit
- Year Zero
- He Is
- Prime Mover
- Mummy Dust
- If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)
- Dance Macabre
- Square Hammer
- Monstrance Clock
- The Host of Seraphim (Dead Can Dance song)