Way back on October 22nd of this year I had the pleasure of experiencing the North American leg of Ghost’s worldwide tour. Ultimate Tour Named Death. I took two days off of work, one to get there early and another to recover. While this has turned into a difficult month for blogging, I can’t let October end without discussing this trip. Ghost is not a Halloween only band by any means, but the entire atmosphere fits into the season. Sit back and read all about the day, with videos along the way.
The day began with an appointment in the next city over. Between driving back and forth, plus the time there, I was leaving for Syracuse, NY at 3pm for a concert that began around 7:30 (doors will open one hour before event). As fate would have it, my uncle lives in one of the many suburbs of the city and plans were made for me to sleep there after the show instead of driving all the way home. I put his address in the GPS and a just under an hour drive took a bit longer thanks to a torrential downpour on unfamiliar roads. I also forgot which door is the everyday access door and stood out in the rain a bit longer. We talked a bit, and he showed off all the changes to his home since last time I was there. He also informed me (and I use this language just to quote): “I looked up that band you’re going to see. Pretty fucked up, Kev.”
I reminded him that he had Rolling Stones’ “Goat’s Head Soup” album hanging up in his childhood bedroom for years. Still hanging up there during my childhood. His room was at the top of the stairs, and I swear he displayed that album just so it practically greeted anyone walking up those stairs, including my elementary school age self. I try to explain Ghost to him. It’s a show. It’s a gimmick. It’s Black Sabbath meets KISS. None of these explanations worked. I ate a little bit there, just to have something more in my stomach, and left at 6 for what should have been an under 10 minute drive to the arena.
In a moment of genius, I looked up parking days before. Cash was in my pocket to hand to the attendant. Enough to park at any of the lots surrounding the building. But, I forgot that event parking is more than everyday parking. Pulled in and right back out. Time to find an ATM because I need a bit more cash to park. Problem is, I can’t find a drive up ATM anywhere near by. Nor can I find anywhere to park and walk up to an ATM because if I could park, I would PARK! Wider and wider circles around the area desperately trying to find anywhere. I’m only a couple blocks away but because of traffic patterns and intersections these loops are taking longer and longer. I almost accidentally got on the interstate. All of this still in the aforementioned rain. Finally I see parking for the amount in my pocket. I pull in and see the sign “closes at 9 pm”. Well, the concert starts at 730 and damn sure won’t be over by then. But I need to park. So I pull in to figure it out later. Found a spot at the top easy to pull in and out of. Right opposite the crumbling concrete wall. I should have taken a picture of it, but by now I felt I was in a location that would personally deal with anyone pulling out a camera. Well, the chances of the whole building crumbling while I’m there are slim and I have to park. I double checked with the attendant – the garage doesn’t close until 11 during concerts. Excellent. I walk out, towards the venue, and realized I have no clue where I am or where I parked. I double back and take a picture of the pizza joint right next to the garage. Something to look up later and find it.
All of my experiences going to wrestling shows helped out this evening. I followed the group of people wearing black t-shirts and found the rock concert. My tickets were for the floor, general admission, and this parking messed up my plans to be right up front. The line that I was now at the back of didn’t hold out any hope for getting close. While standing in line though, a large security guard kept walking through talking to people and pulling them aside. I didn’t know if this was due to masks, weapons, drugs. Who knows. Until he came to me and the random guy next to me in line.
“Are you by yourself?” Yes. “Any bags or anything?” Nope, just me and what you see here. “Go to the front of the line.”
Due to the security scanning it was easier to funnel in individuals without bags or costumes at an entrance to the side. Score! Me and random other fan shrugged our shoulders and walked pass a few hundred people. Ticket scanned on the app, wristband attached, and I stood in front of the stage. I’m close. But dammit, I want a shirt and I should go to the bathroom quick. I find the bathroom before it got packed, I bought a t-shirt and put it right on, then back to the floor. And I was just as close.
Handful in front of me. Not close enough to touch anyone but near enough to see everything. I was there, safely, excited. It’s been a long month and there were still challenges ahead of me but I knew for about three hours I would feel great. I texted my wife and Bear that I was there and safe. “Look at all the people, buddy!”
(I’m the one in front.)
(Near 1000 words in and it’s time to discuss the concert itself.)
Nothing More starts the show. My brother saw them last year, so I knew some of what to expect. Between Spotify and the local K-Rock I knew a good number of songs too. Legend is the original lead singer left the band and the drummer stepped forward. Easier to get a new drummer than a singer. He hasn’t given up the kit though and that will be shown in full soon enough.
Nothing More set:
Let ’em Burn
Go to War
This is the Time (Ballast)
First of the Year (Equinox) (with part of ‘We are the Champions’)
Salem (Burn the Witch)
Nothing More begins with the lead singer climbing this huge swaying ladder. He starts cranking on an air horn and then grabs the microphone that’s been previously attached to the structure and starts going nuts. An insane high energy way to start the evening. Like starting wrestling with a fast paced Cruiserweight match. Unreal.
I was floored the first song in by the opening band. This was going to be a long exhausting (in the best way) night. Nothing More went on to put every bit of emotion and energy into their songs. So much meaning, so much depth to all of it. And, to continue the wrestling talk, the lead singer is ridiculously jacked. The reaction from certain members of the audience when he removed his shirt was deafening.
I knew “Jenny” and “Go to War” well. “Fadein/Fadeout” was new and absolutely wrecked me emotionally. They said there’s an acoustic version recorded and I’m on the alert for when that’s released. At the end of the set the lead singer is back to the drum kit, I learned later called the Scorpion, locks himself in and then goes nuts. This steampunk contraption was absurd. Nothing More was *more* than an opening act. They were worth the ticket price along. This night became two shows for the price of one.
More Nothing More videos:
Nothing More finishes their set and it takes about a half hour for the Ghost set to be built up behind the curtain. I texted a few people. Looked around to see if I knew anyone. Listened in on conversations people were having. A lot of them had seen this tour multiple times.
I didn’t catch his name or anything but shout out to the big guy who was near front row recording the whole night. He was singing his heart out with every single word from Nothing More. Having a near religious experience. The lead singer sang to/with him multiple times. I hope he got to meet the band. Can’t think of anyone else in the building that deserved it more.
In the weeks previous I was watching videos of the tour in order to know what songs were done, the stage set up, all of it. I knew when the black curtain was in place that it would drop. Ghost’s album Prequelle starts with a very low track called “Ashes”. Children sing ‘Ring Around the Rosey’ very low and the music builds to a crescendo. Then the guitars kick in and the record seamlessly moves on to ‘Rats’. Thanks to the videos, I knew the concert opened this way and I had to capture it.
Nothing but the black curtain across the stage. I sent this picture to my wife, I was so excited.
Now let’s get to the dead elephant in the room known as Ghost. I first became aware of the band when I was watching metal videos one night years ago and “Cirice” auto played. It was heavy, smart, brilliant and haunting video. I started deep diving then into what the band is and is not. Since then my knowledge of things heavy metal has grown and the examples from my life long fandom of comics and wrestling helps out here.
Ghost absolutely makes use of the darkness. This symbolism, the costumes, the lyrics, all of it. Lead singer Cardinal Copia said “welcome to the spectacle” and that’s a perfect word for it. It is heavy metal theater. Here is a little thing that people forget – music can be fictional. Much like there are fictional genres for books and movies, there can be for music as well. The most recent full length album, Prequelle, is inspired by the Black Plague. Tonight we celebrate for tomorrow we may die. The “scary” band must always exist for every generation. Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, and so on. There’s a handful of bands in the world that believe and live the dark demonic life style and they have their place and niche. Which is not usually on mainstream radio or giant headlining tours.
Ghost’s set from the evening:
Mary on a Cross
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Kiss the Go-Goat
Twenty song set. Plus guitar ‘sketches’ and Tobias Forge talking to the crowd. He has the night planned to the second. Between the mask and the costumes, plus changing in and out of them, his water and breathing breaks are worked into the order of songs. Run back during a solo, let the band banter, some instrumental tracks. Just as my father was amazed at the work that went into putting on wrestling, I was amazed at all that Ghost and their crew accomplished.
My friend Karen is one of the few people I know that is also a huge Ghost fan. She had a moment about a year ago in which her friend was “Cirice’d”. The song that started my fandom has a potential moment in each concert. It doesn’t always happen at every show, thus making it more impactful when it does. There is a moment in “Cirice” when the Cardinal picks a woman in the front row and holds her hand while singing directly to her. There are a few videos online of this at various concerts over the years. I was hopeful to see it live, but Ghost hadn’t done it in a month according to recent online videos. Thankfully, I was able to witness the moment first hand.
“Zombie Queen” is apparently rarely done in concert. This was unknown to me or I would have tried to capture more of the song.
I wanted to record more, but my phone was near dying. And if you were reading carefully, my phone had my only record of where I parked. So I was going to need a bit of charge just to get back to the car. Thanks to my friend Ed, who went to the concert days earlier and wrote all about it HERE, I knew that Ghost shot out gold confetti and ‘Ghost dollars’ during “Mummy Dust”. I was ready and reacted as best as a forty something in the dark could do. Some of the ‘dust’ fell into my coat pocket which I didn’t discover until later.
Ghost kept implying the night was over, but would we like just one more song. “Year Zero” is a good song. “He Is” is one of my favorites. “Mummy Dust” might be their heaviest song. “Kiss the Go-Goat” is brand new and loads of psychadelic fun. Just one more song? How about “Dance Macabre” with the craziest sing along I’ve ever been a part of. We clapped and clapped and cheered and screamed and were recognized with for real this time, one last song. “Square Hammer” hit and that was it for every last bit of energy any of us had.
I felt happy and exhausted. My ears took two days to recover. I wanted to talk about the concert with everyone around me. But it is now 10:45 and I have 15 minutes to find my car and less than 10% battery. Thanks to some phone GPS I got back there in about 5 minutes, plugged my phone into the car, and quickly made my way over to my uncle’s. He wanted to chat and hang out, and also has an extensive movie collection. When I do the write up of everything watched in October in a couple days I will talk all about this movie. A couple minutes of a documentary and come 3 AM I was ready to pass out.
The next morning we small talked. I left early and stopped in a couple stores on my way home. I made it back home in time to see my wife briefly before she went to work. Then I laid there until school was out. From dust I returned.