The last time Ghost visited Glasgow, the band was under the command of another leader, at a venue no longer in use. Since then, they bequeathed us Prequelle, introduced us to Cardinal Copia and made the jump to arenas. This is a band that doesn’t fuck about.
But kicking off the show, to a small audience, is Tribulation. A band that’s constantly metamorphosed throughout the years, much like tonight’s headliners. For tonight, they take a dark tone as they shuffle onto the stage, smoke and green lights covering their small area in equal measure. It’s deliciously heavy, brooding and gothic, all tied together with a great display of technical prowess. Whilst the crowd is relatively small, it quickly grows throughout their performance. Making the most of their time, they blast through their set with the crowd politely appreciating their efforts. Taking on psychedelic elements at times, it all blends together in a neat package, ensuring it never gets stale and between all the different flavours, despite its grittier tone, works well with the night’s headliners.
All Them Witches take to the stage shortly after. The three-piece are another good fit but take things in a more stoner and groove-based direction. The three-piece fill the stage well, despite their largely static performance in comparison to their predecessors. With big instrumental pieces at times and atmospheric elements, they stray over into post-metal/post-rock territory. With little talking between songs, they also want to fill their time with as many songs as possible. However, with the slower vibes on the music, it feels like the momentum built by Tribulation stalls a little and the much larger crowd are nothing more than polite. But once it’s finished, the tension quickly begins to build.
After the atmospheric intro music, “Ashes” signals the arrival of Ghost before the Nameless Ghouls begin “Rats”, quickly joined by Cardinal Copia. Running through their entire back catalogue and hitting the majority of the marks, a couple of normal heavy-hitters are removed but the replacements aren’t exactly bum notes. It’s in the live environment where Ghost work best and whilst their albums all have completely different musical directions, they all work together in a live show. The doomy, symphonic tones of “Ritual” and “Satan Prayer” blend perfectly with the more experimental and pop tones of more recent material. And of course, there’s also the recently re-released numbers of “Mary on a Cross” and “Kiss the Go-Goat” with their 60s psychedelic tones blending into early classic rock.
With more Nameless Ghouls than ever before (seven!), they all serve their purpose, adding fresh twists to older songs and showing the complexity of newer material. Even on those earlier songs, they show what they can bring to it and throughout the twenty songs they perform, the number of musicians never becomes a problem, every instrument is there for a reason and serves its purpose. Whilst many of them are fairly static behind their spaces on their own raised area of the stage, the twin guitarists and bassist make up for it, constantly prowling the stage in amongst all of the Cardinal’s on-stage cavorting.
Whilst Copia may be the latest star of the Ghost show, the two guitarists are more than happy to match his energy, running across the stage and their guitar battle which includes a foray into “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, which has the crowd bouncing, they inject what can be a tedious section with a good dose of humour. There’s also a brief appearance from Papa Nihil on saxophone for “Miasma” which is greeted with a fervent roar.
Meanwhile, it speaks to the pomp and circumstance of the evening where the set may not be comprised of two distinct acts, it still has the feel of it. Indeed, each of the last few songs feel like the finale with “Dance Macabre” and its poppy flamboyance being the closer before one final song of “Square Hammer”. And as his first visit to Glasgow, Cardinal Copia’s night is a triumphant one. The entire band are incredibly tight, all working together to deliver a coherent song over two hours. There’s not a single instance of them simply playing individual parts. Nothing becomes over-indulgent or pastiche because it’s all part of the show they’re trying to bring to you.
If anything, this is simply another rung on the ladder on Ghost’s rise to the top. Moving to arenas has shown just how theatrical and flamboyant their performances have become and if anything, this is their true form. As one of the most musically versatile acts around, everything works seamlessly. Cardinal Copia’s addition to the fold with his own air of extra flamboyance, even more so than his predecessor, works well to command an audience of this size and serves the newer songs incredibly well. And in a world where Muse and The Struts are given the credit of becoming the heir to Queen’s throne, it’s fair to say they are simply pretenders, this is who will inherit it.