The tension of waiting for a concert to begin is a singularly powerful moment. One can feel the excitement in the crowd, rising from each concert-goer and mixing like a witch’s brew. The crowd feels this energy build, and grows more and more impatient as concert time comes closer. Then, like a pressure valve letting off steam, fog rises from the stage. The lights go down. The crowd roars. Then, like the ethereal being they’re named for, the members of Ghost appear onstage.
This was the scene at the Summit Music Hall in Denver on Friday, Oct. 17.
Swedish doom-rock band Ghost has become a titan in the hard rock/metal world in recent years. They’ve been around since 2010 with their debut Opus Eponymous, and since then their popularity has skyrocketed. Now to promote their fantastic third album, Meliora, Ghost has been on a tour around North America entitled the “Black to the Future” tour.
Before getting into Ghost’s performance at the Summit show, it’s worth mentioning their supporting act, Purson. Purson is a psychedelic rock band from London, specializing in dreamy, thick-textured jams that are equal parts Cream and Jefferson Airplane with a healthy dose of Pagan imagery. If that seems like an odd mixture of sounds, the audience who came to see Ghost would probably have agreed at first. The crowd was a bit confused for the first couple of songs in Purson’s set (due in part to some technical difficulties with the bass that were resolved early on), but they definitely warmed up once Purson showed off their fearsome musical chops. Peacocking in their paisley and tie-dye and spandex, they grabbed the audience and didn’t let go until they were done with their set. It’s safe to say that Purson made some new hardcore fans that night.
Then it was time for Ghost. As resplendent as the sixties-soaked Purson looked onstage, Ghost was positively outrageous. The Nameless Ghouls, Ghost’s anonymous musicians, showed off their fearsome chrome devil masks and black tunics. Papa Emeritus III, the band’s singer, carried himself with a sense of regal evil in his skull facepaint and demonic Pope outfit.
The first thing that stood out about the Ghost concert was the sheer wall of sound. The sound waves visibly disturbed the fake fog hanging over the stage, making it appear as if the band was literally shaking the building down. They started out insanely strong and only got stronger with each successive song. When the fat bassline of “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” started to ring out, the crowd surged forward. During the devilish march of “Per Aspera ad Inferi” they roared approval. And when Ghost dropped into the explosive main riff of “Cirice,” the crowd went absolutely insane.
The band’s stage presence was impeccable. The Nameless Ghouls were a study in military precision, never missing a note. Papa Emeritus strutted around the stage imperiously, sometimes hyping the crowd with no more than some dismissive hand gestures. During the ballad “He Is,” he reached out to a young woman in the audience, taking her hand and singing to her specifically. He even managed to incorporate a costume change, swapping out his papal robes and hat for a stylish tailcoat. Whoever is under that skull facepaint, he is a master showman. During the song “His Body and Blood” two women dressed in nun habits walked across the stage, passing out communion wafers and what tasted like grape juice to audience members in the front row. Between these theatrics and the rapt attention that the audience paid Ghost, it was almost like being in a real church.
Ghost played the audience’s energy well, toning it down briefly for their cover of Roky Erikson’s “If You Have Ghosts…” but they brought it to a roaring climax with the sing-along chorus of “Monstrance Clock.” Then, as quickly as they had appeared, they left the stage, leaving the audience to bask in the afterglow. In terms of superior concert experiences, Ghost gave up the goods big time, and it would be a fool indeed who misses an opportunity to see them live.