Today, not ten years after their first album, Ghost is a Grammy-winning band that plays sold-out arenas, and with a following of faithful fans that get Ghost tattoos and pay big money for a meet and greet. In recent years, no other band in Rock/Metal has managed to achieve anything close to what the Swedish band has done.
For the last show of the European 2019 tour, Ghost played at the Ericsson Globe in what the band’s frontman himself, Tobias Forge/Cardinal Copia, said was the biggest headlining concert the band ever played: 15,000 fans gathered at the same venue that just a few months before hosted legendary bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden.
This is the league where Ghost are headed, as the concert clearly shows.
Opening the show, we have Swedish legends Candlemass, playing as supporting band for mere economical reason: Ghost sell more, but the importance and influence of the Swedish Doom masters are undeniable. Let’s just think of how their debut album, “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”, is where Doom Metal found its name. The band recently reunited with the singer from that very album, Johan Längqvist, with whom they recorded the recently released “The Door to Doom”, an excellent return seven years after their previous album.
Being a supporting act, unfortunately, Candlemass have only a limited stage-time, but their performance is epic and powerful, just what people could expect from them. The band plays six songs, picking from their first four albums and from the last one: from the beginning with “The Well of Souls”, from the legendary “Nightfall”, Längqvist shows the crowd right away how easily he can master Messiah Marcolin’s vocal parts. After “Dark Reflections”, another track from Marcolin’s era, it’s time for some new music with “Astorolus – The Great Octopus”: the song was graced in studio by a solo from Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and, while of course, the English guitarist doesn’t join Candlemass on stage, the track sounds very convincing live too. The band then proceeds to play “Mirror Mirror” and ends the performance with a couple of songs from their first album, “A Sorcerer’s Pledge” and “Solitude”. The only flaw of this performance is its short duration: Candlemass are better today than they’ve been in years with a lineup rejuvenated by Längqvist’s return, a great new album out and a lot of energy and passion.
After half an hour of stage change, it is now time for Ghost: the lights are turned off, “Ashes” starts to be played and the curtains rise to reveal a huge stage and a multitude of musicians, seven, all hidden under the Nameless Ghouls’ costumes. Forge stated recently that he wanted a bigger band to have a bigger, more authentic sound when playing live and to avoid the necessity for backing tracks and, well, he achieved that.
The sound of Ghost, tonight, is powerful and solid, something between Arena Rock and an orchestra. As the band begins to play “Rats”, Cardinal Copia runs on stage holding his mic stand and starts to sing, the show has begun. The first songs show already what the plan for the night is: jumping from “Rats” to “Absolution” to “Ritual”, Ghost are showcasing their whole repertoire, from the earliest songs to the newest, from the heaviest hits to the softest ballads.
It’s interesting to see how the band has evolved into a really organic organism and, while Forge is obviously the puppeteer behind the show, the other musicians on stage have much more autonomy than years back and move on stage and interact with the crowd and with each other. One of the biggest examples of that is when, introducing “Cirice”, the guitarists have a little “riff off” where they battle each with riffs and solos, a nice little touch that adds to the fun of the gig. The following song, “Miasma”, show the appearance on stage of a ninth member, Papa Nihil, another character of the “Ghost folklore”, that plays the saxophone at the end of the song.
Thirteen songs into the set, after “Life Eternal”, the curtains fall and a voice announces a 15-minutes break. While that might seem strange at a Rock concert, we have to be realistic and think that it must be very hot under the costumes worn on stage, and with the masks on the musicians can’t even drink in between songs, so a break is necessary for them to catch a breath. Fifteen minutes later the lights turn off and the concert resumes with “Spirit”. In between songs Forge speaks in English even though he is in his home country: he is probably aware that many in the crowd have come from far, and speaking in English gives Ghost a stateless connotation, they are this masked entity which might come from everywhere. Some songs later, there is a change of pace when the guitarists and the bassist switch instruments to acoustic ones and sit on the stairs leading to the raised part of the stage: it’s time for the ballad “He Is” which is sung heartfully by the whole crowd. This nice and relaxed moment is followed by a song at the exact opposite of the spectrum, “Mummy Dust”, which Forge sings in a growl remindful of his past in Death Metal bands like Repugnant. After that, Ghost play a cover, “If You Have Ghost” from the EP of the same name, which is interluded with a long introduction of the band. Then the band proceeds to play their latest single, “Dance Macabre” and a couple of classics, “Square Hammer” and “Monstrance Clock”, before ending the show.
In the crowd, some were dressed as Nameless Ghouls and as Papa Emeritus, many came from abroad to see the show, most wore a Ghost shirt: this is what the band is today, powerful entertainers, a strong entity with an enthusiastic following. And this show proves that they deserve it.
All photos by Davide Sciaky