Date: 23rd November 2019
“How the heck are you doing Yorkshire?” – The Cardinal knows how to ramp up a crowd as Ghost bring a stunning show to a town that’s done their share in supporting the rise of the mask-wearing Swedish pop-rockers.
Our/my last visit (and only visit to be truthful) to Leeds Arena was on opening night. The famous Springsteen gig when his bus got a parking ticket (obviously they hadn’t got that quite sorted yet) and he crowd surfed from the end of the walkway back to the stage. That one was rather special. But then so was tonight.
A supporting bill of Tribulation and All Them Witches made for an irresistible proposition. Fellow Swedes Tribulation opened the show with their brand of blackened metal. The vocals were harsh and the riffs were big. The band prowled the stage amongst moody, ghoulish lighting as each member of the four-piece shone. The crowd clapped in unison as huge solos, Maiden style twin guitars, plenty of shapes and superb arena sound made for a solid opening from this exuberant quartet.
The trio who make up All Them Witches have been tagged with a ‘Sabbath meets The Doors’ label. That’s not too far off the mark as their reverb-drenched guitars and moody red lighting added a hint of doom and menace to their forty-minute set. A vocal style that hinted at a Morrison-esque spoken-rather-than-sung delivery was an apt complement to their psych-rock soundtrack. Yes, we even had a solo drum break accompanying the dark groves that the trio worked. All in all a decent pair of warm-up acts for the main attraction.
Ghost are one of the hardest working bands in metal. They seem to be relentlessly touring – the USA seems to be a land of opportunity for them – and have an insatiable appetite for releasing music. Whilst some of the mystique has gone with the revealing of the man behind the mask, Ghost are still a wonderful band…especially live.
With incense aplenty filling the arena, Satan’s favourite subjects, it was almost time for absolution. Ghost brought their dark ritual to Yorkshire with a twenty-minute aura of requiem styled music pumped through the PA to heighten the anticipation. Lights down. the chilling sing-song of Ashes and the dramatic fall of the black curtain heralded the appearance of the seven-piece band and the red-suited (to begin with at least) figure of Cardinal Copia commanding our worship.
A 100 minute show that really was a show. The stunning production took place around a stage set that Maiden would not be ashamed to prance around. Risers, platforms, stairs and walkways; a stained glass backdrop as a reminder that we were present in the church of Ghost and the two main guitarists, or are they ghouls, in a constant duel for attention. Of course, at the centre, the key figure of Cardinal Copia, changing from red to a revealing white before the black robes and offering out his tongue in cheek ministrations.
Their most recent work, Prequelle and Meloria provided the bulk of the set and despite being embraced as a part of the metal community, their songs are pure accessible pop-rock given a darker coating particularly in the live setting where the polish gets a little tarnished. So yes, we had our asses wobbled and other things tickled by the heaviness of Mummy Dust, together with nostalgic dips into the back catalogue for Ritual and Satan Prayer.
Most impressive though was the closing run that began with the incantations of Year Zero and ran through the swelling and anthemic He Is, Mummy Dust itself, one of the new tracks Kiss The Go-Goat and Dance Macabre, where coloured lights swept and swung across the arena before a final gung-ho Square Hammer.
After their supporting jaunt with Metallica across Europe, this UK tour has seen them stepping up to arenas in their own right. To be fair they’ve hedged their bets by choosing the more intimate of the venues, but with a presence and a production that’s worthy, next time the spaces may need to be a little larger.