Ghost Shine Light on ‘Devil Church’ With Tribulation in New Haven, Connecticut
As the sun dipped below the horizon, the children of the night came out en masse to attend a Saturday night service in New Haven, Conn., held by the mysterious Swedish clergymen Ghost. As the swarm descended upon the downtown area, there was a euphoric buzz in the air as faces painted in tribute to band / cult leader Papa Emeritus III, nuns and even a pope dotted the sea of black shirts and denim vests.
It is immediately clear that Ghost represent more than just music and an image as their followers filed into College Street Music Hall, packing the floor and most of the balcony from front to back. The lights dimmed and red overhead lights slowly panned over the crowd, who were waiting with outstretched arms for the "Spirit" of Ghost to enter them. An organ and Gregorian chant poured through the PA system, serving as the introduction to the dark mass. The stained glass backdrop was illuminated with a sickly green hue as the Nameless Ghouls took their respective spots onstage, which was met with anticipating screams.
Singer Papa Emeritus III emerged in a blinding white light as the band ripped into 'Spirit,' the opening track from 2015's Meliora. The ghastly pope figure calmly stalked the stage and mass was under way with nearly 2,000 sets of transfixed eyes gently following the frontman's every step. Asking mid-song, "Are you with us!?," the crowd roared back as the eerie mid-section of "Spirit" loomed large.
Keeping with new material, they dove straight into "Pinnacle to the Pit," sending the crowd into further throes of enlightened Satanic ecstasy. A double dose of their eponymous debut brought "Stand by Him" and "Con Clavi Con Dio," the latter of which saw the papal frontman hypnotize their followers with the pendular motions of the swinging thurible as incense smoke bellowed out from within, adding to the already pungent atmosphere from incense holders bookending the stage.
Following "Per Aspera Ad Inferi," the stage went dark and Papa Emeritus III addressed the crowd, noting the fact it was a Saturday night in New Haven and asked the crowd how the intoxication factor was. The singer invited two 'sisters of sin' to join them onstage — Ghost had solicited for two nuns to join them onstage prior to the show, though they would have had a fine lot to choose from in the crowd anyway — and quipped that the next song has something to do with drinking as well as eating flesh. The intro to "Body and Blood" played loud and the clergy delivered their warped ode to the cannibalistic Christian ritual.
The rest of the night was lined with Ghost classics like the Grammy-winning "Cirice," the call to the many names of the Lord of Light, "Year Zero," new cuts in the ballad "He Is" and more, though the frenzied crowd appeared ready to bask in anything the band selected as all of their material is seemingly sacred to Ghost's legion of followers. A sharply calculated light show dazzled and furthered the dynamics of the material on display, transforming the concert into a "Ritual," a song that served as the closer to the set.
With chants emanating from the tightly packed crowd, the clergy returned to the stage where Papa Emeritus joked with the fans for a short while. He implored everyone to "come together" and celebrate the female orgasm as they began "Monstrance Clock." The song is heavy on crowd participation and is a fitting closer to a set that is largely constructed to resemble the pace of a traditional church mass.
Opening the show were Swedish shapeshifters Tribulation. The band currently plays a gothic brand of punk-tinged blackened heavy metal and each member took the stage dressed in tattered black and fancy footwear. A ghoulish green light beamed upward at frontman Johannes Andersson while each side of the stage saw the two guitarists twirl and gracefully move across the stage in captivating fashion. Quite the showmen, they tore through "Strange Gateways Beckon" and "Melancholia" off their latest, The Children of the Night, among others. The band was met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction, serving as a perfect opener for their country mates in Ghost.
Ghost left New Haven in a state of devilish bewilderment, silencing naysayers and demonstrating their brand is a complete package with music, image, performance and ideology all forming parts of a greater whole. Anyone who claims this band is relying on a gimmick is simply not paying enough attention. Church dismissed.
Click through the gallery above to see photos of Ghost, Tribulation and some dressed up fans!
02. "Pinnacle to the Pit"
03. "Stand By Him"
04. "Con Clavi Con Dio"
05. "Per Aspera Ad Inferi"
06. "Body and Blood"
07. "Devil Church"
09. "Year Zero"
- "Spöksanat" tape -
10. "He Is"
12. "Mummy Dust"
13. "If You Have Ghosts" (Roky Erickson cover)
14. "Ghuleh / Zombie Queen"
16. "Monstrance Clock"
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