[Live Review] Ghost, Melkweg Amsterdam

12867The last time I saw ghoul rockers Ghost live was in 2011, when they supported Paradise Lost on their Draconian Times anniversary tour. Opus Eponymous had just been released and the band were already creating a buzz in the metal scene. At the time, Ghost was seen as not much more than a joke band that would last one, maybe two albums before the curtain would fall. A lot has happened since then.

2014 Sees Ghost making the rounds as a headliner act, attracting quite a crowd all around the world. Part of the band’s success is of course due to their extravagant image and show, with their five nameless ghouls on the instruments and fronted by zombie pope Papa Emeritus II. People come to see the freak show, but Ghost (or Ghost B.C., as they’re known by in the United States) also has the chops to back that up with two damn good albums and a very solid live performance. On Monday the 30th of June A.D., they hit Amsterdam, with Dutch retro rockers GOLD supporting.

GOLD is a terrific band that combines the sound of bands like Jefferson Airplane with a more contemporary heaviness. Musically, the band convinces on every level, with great guitar work and a pounding rhythm section, resulting in a massive soundscape. Vocalist Milena Eva, however, detracts from that with a remarkably wooden stage presence that has you wondering if she’s quite alright at times. I get the darkness and mystery she tries to convey, but in the end, it comes across like she’s had a minor stroke as she wanders about the stage looking more than a little lost. It also doesn’t help that her vocals, especially at the start of the set, sounds slightly off as well. It’s a shame, because all in all, she detracts from what is otherwise a pretty solid and convincing half-hour set. If Eva lost the forced extravagance, interacted with the crowd a little more and, basically, put more conviction and heart in what she was doing, I would not have anything to complain here.

However, it’s Ghost everyone has come to see tonight, and it’s Ghost that delivers on all fronts. Led by the enigmatic Papa Emeritus II and shrouded in a nebula of smoke and incense, the set kicks off with Infestissumam and Per Aspera ad Inferi, and it becomes immediately apparent that the band is on a roll tonight. The two guitar and bass playing ghouls stomp about the stage, and Emeritus hovers around them, casting deliciously evil glances at the assorted crowd and basically revelling in the role of wicked zombie pope. When he addresses the crowd – and he is quite talkative tonight – Emeritus sounds like a crossover between Dracula and Super Mario, and when he utters an “okidoki” during one of his speeches, you can’t help but laugh out loud. It’s good to see a band like this not taking itself too seriously, and it definitely adds to the fun.

The set list, however, is also cracking, and songs such as RitualElizabeth and Con Clavi Con Dio are backed quite loudly by the crowd. Louder than I had expected, in any case. Even both covers (Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles, and Roky Erickson’s If You Have Ghosts) get the hands together from back to front. The band moves agilely between the heavier, darker material from Opus Eponymous and the more catchy pomp rock they delivered with Infestissumam, so that ominous rockers like Prime Mover go hand in hand with the more frivolous nature of material like Jigolo Har Megiddo. After a roaring version of Year Zero, which has clearly become the crowd favourite, the band leaves the crowd for the first time with Erickson’s aforementioned If You Have Ghosts (“Do you want one more song? Then that is what you get,” Emeritus jokes in his best Count von Count impersonation). After a short break, they return to round up an already smashing set with Ghuleh/Zombie Queen and the brilliant Monstrance Clock.

There aren’t many bands around like Ghost these days. Perhaps there never have been. The anonimity of the band members, the extravagant show elements and, not in the least, the sense of humour imbued in their live shows make for quite the experience, and Ghost is able to back that all up with musical prowess and good songs. It’s a joke, and they are in on it themselves. It’s also a great live show where horror, laughs and good music compliment each other extraordinarily well, and I for one got more than my money’s worth in Amsterdam last night. Now, how about a combined bill together with Powerwolf and the resurrected British NWOBHM legend Hell?

Set list:

  1. Masked Ball (intro)
  2. Infestissumam
  3. Per Aspera ad Inferi
  4. Ritual
  5. Prime Mover
  6. Jigolo Har Megiddo
  7. Con Clavi Con Dio
  8. Elizabeth
  9. Body and Blood
  10. Death Knell
  11. Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles cover)
  12. Stand by Him
  13. Genesis
  14. Year Zero
  15. If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)

Encore:

  1. Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
  2. Monstrance Clock

Further surfing:

Review by Ralph Plug

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