Live Review: Ghost – Manchester

Live Review: Ghost - AO Arena, Manchester
9th April 2022
Support: Twin Temple, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
Words: Cat Finch
Photos: Tim Finch

One thing is for sure as I walk through the streets in Manchester heading towards the AO Arena, Ghost are now big business. Not only are they about to embark on the biggest headline arena tour of their career, they have also just dropped the album of year. The streets, hostelries and fast food outlets in Manchester are all a buzz, filled with people in Ghost T-shirts, face paint and even full cosplay. Ghost are the hot ticket right now.

The queue to get into the arena snakes around Manchester city centre, the anticipation is high and the ritual is about to commence.

As the lights dim, a couple appear from the shadows, chanting their Satanic hex, whilst showering the crowd in some form of holy water. Swords are waved in unison as the ceremony ends and Twin Temple launch into the musical element of their performance. Described by many as Satanic doo-wop it’s certainly different, there are elements of jazz, gothic metal, punk and a large dose of Amy Winehouse. Front and centre is Alexandra James, sporting a huge black beehive she is every bit the satanic version of Ms. Winehouse in both presence, appearance and vocal range.

As she asks the crowd “does anyone want to go to a satanic orgy?” there is a raucous response, the Ghost fans are fully appreciative of the show, the aesthetic and even the music. Whilst their performance is a mere half an hour in length, it has done the band wonders, opened up a whole new audience and grown their fan base no end. Ultimately, this is the perfect opening for a Ghost show.

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats provide a complete contrast, to both Twin Temple and Ghost. The British psychedelic doom outfit shy away from grandiose stage shows, the lights are dim, the band highlighted merely by an image from a distant projector. They don’t come to the front of the stage or even use Papa’s vanity ramp to approach the crowd. They sit back and let their music do the talking.

It's one hell of a message the music gives this audience, opening with ‘Mind Crawler, the band mean business. Inspired by early Sabbath, the riffs are loud and heavy. The throb of the bass
reverberates within you as they plough on thorough ’13 Candles’ and ‘Pusher Man.

Their drone creates a dark atmosphere, sucking the listener into their live set, enveloping them, consuming them. The crowd move as one giant mass in time to that beat and the next dark riff. Contrasting the other two outfits perfectly, it’s a great warm up for the ritual’s headline.

As the eerie background music of ‘Klara stjärnor’ and ‘Miserere mei, Deus’ play a white sheet conceals the stage from the audience. The tension and anticipation builds as time ticks on and the music nears it’s end. The lights dim one final time tonight, a raw lifts up from the crowd as the opening riff of ‘Imperium’ rings out, a spotlight projects the silhouette of the Ghoul on lead guitar playing the intro. As the sheet drops revealing the huge stage set the flash/bang pyros fire and the band launch into ‘Kaisarion’ with the Ghouls storming the front of the stage. Within seconds another raw from the crowd as Papa Emeritus IV appears, the figure whom those in attendance worship, without question.

The start of the show mirror’s the bands latest album, ‘Impera’, arguably the best work of the band to date, but it’s as they lead into ‘Rats’ that the atmosphere in the arena rises yet still. Never have I seen a crowd react to a song, or indeed an entire set, as we have here tonight. 15,000 voices sing out in unison along to the number taken from the ‘Prequelle’ album, before things get heavier with ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’.

Ghost have perfected the live musical performance, taking elements of Alice Cooper and King Diamond/Mercyful Fate as inspiration and using it to carve out their own niche. Whilst inspired by such greats, this Ghost show is it’s own entity, not a copy of anything else, the Ghouls – particularly the guitarists – arguing like petulant children on stage, often admonished by Papa himself, but also their duals between songs allowing for Papa’s multiple costume changes.

The set moves on through ‘Cirice’, ‘Hunters Moon’, ‘Faith’ and ‘Spillways’ which garners yet more emotional reaction from the crowd. Witnessing the new music live is a moving experience, genuinely emotional as voice sing out…

All your faith, all your rage,
All your pain, it ain't over now,
It is the cruel beast that you feed,
It is your burning yearning need to bleed…

‘Call Me Little Sunshine’ also taken from the new album, but having been out in the public consciousness since last year, leads us through now classic’s ‘Year Zero’ with all its joyous pyro and ‘He Is’.

At the end of the last album cycle Papa Nihil was killed off, allowing Cardinal Copia to step into the role of Papa Emeritus IV. Thus we all thought the instrumental number featuring Nihils sax ‘Miasma’ had been retired. Indeed throughout the American leg of this tour the song was missing. Thus it’s a surprise as the Ghouls start playing it, but where will the sax element come from? A question soon answered as the corpse of Papa Nihil is rolled on stage in a glass coffin, as the song progresses Nihil is worked on, defibrillator’s shocking him repeatedly until he is resurrected in time for his solo. A magical moment that leaves us wondering where this element of the over arching Ghost story line will go next.

A Ghost performance wouldn’t be complete without confetti canon shooting Papa Bucks into the crowd and during ‘Mummy Dust’ the crowd is covered by Papa’s confetti offering. Which leads the band nicely into their encore. Their ‘Enter Sandman’ cover is a work of brilliance whilst crowd favourites ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘Square Hammer’ round out a near perfect show.

Throughout this leg of the tour the band have demonstrated just how good they are. The theatrics, mixed with magical songmanship produce a show that cannot be beaten. In all my years of gig going, nothing comes close to the show Papa and his Ghouls put on. Never been to a Ghost show? Been to one and not really “got it"? I encourage you all to seek out Ghost live now, they have reached a peak no band has before, it’s a truly moving experience.

All photo credits: Tim Finch Photography

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