Ghost – Manchester AO Arena: Live Review

Ghost aka Papa Emeritus IV and his Nameless Ghouls, descend on Manchester to deliver another demonic ritual.

Ghost are truly a modern music phenomenon. Since they arrived on the scene a little over ten years ago, they haven’t really put a foot wrong. Their albums are all completely solid, their live shows are ever expanding and they have a presence to rival the big boys. To see them ascending to playing the arena in Manchester is wonderful; having personally seen them rise through the ranks of Manchester’s wide array of venues.

As queues snaked around the arena, it was a joy to see hardened metal fans sporting their ‘kits’, a selection of people showing devotion to varying degrees with their costumes and a brilliant amount of families all ready to worship together.

Twin Temple

Twin Temple opened the show. Backing band all in black sporting hats, the duo of Alexandra James and Zachary James strode on stage showering the front rows in holy water in amongst an array of red lights. ‘Join us under the sign of the horns,’ exulted Alexandra James as the band begun their set aiming to invoke the devil to help drive out all inequality.

A technical glitch at the start of the set dogged the duo as Alexandra James’ microphone cut out. The music sounded good though! As the sound cut back in, the crowd cheer was huge. Manchester deals with adversity well, and they showed Twin Temple they were in their corner.

‘Ow ‘ar yer love…yer feelin’ alright?’ says Alexandra James in a typically Northern accent; not bad for a girl from LA! ‘Are you ready for a satanic orgy?’ Is the next question. Manchester responds accordingly.

Zachary James adds the dark guitar hues to the Satanic duo’s great blend. There are sax solos, piano solos, Zappa style jams and phenomenal vocals from James.

As the set closes, the pair return to the altar to collect their chalice and cross to end their ritual. A loving embrace precedes the duo leaving the stage as the band close proceedings to a great crowd reception.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats are another band, like Ghost, that have been chiselling away for just over a decade. Their worship is slightly different to that of Twin Temple; this is the worship of horror…and Black Sabbath.

With a good clutch of albums under their belt, Uncle Acid deliver a monolithic slab of stoner/doom/occult rock that helps show the diversity of bands on show on this particular evening. The quartet are shrouded in dim light and an abundance of hair.

Bassist, Justin Smith, is animated throughout as the band showcase a simplistic, but devastating set. ‘How the hell are you?! We’re Uncle Acid and we’re here to ruin your night,’ states ‘Uncle Acid’ before the infectious 13 Candles. Solos wail and the back line chug with aplomb as this band seize their chance on the big stage. The growing crowd show their appreciation.

I’ll Cut You Down from 2012’s Blood Lust LP sounds absolutely huge in the arena. The band might not get the crowd going ‘wild’ as instructed but be under no illusion; the crowd love the shimmer of the track.

As Uncle Acid depart, the Ghost show essentially starts. Gregorian style chants and familiar songs (to Ghost fans) fill the arena as the army of a road crew shift the stage around. And what a stage it is….

Papa Emeritus IV leading the ritual.

Ghost are embracing the space and pouncing on the chance to make their show as big as possible. Stained glass window backdrops of the sadly departed lineage of Papa Emeritus IV’s bloodline and religious props turn the arena into a dark cathedral.

As soon as the white curtain drops to the opening strains of Kaiserion, Manchester laps up every ounce of the show. The pop punk style riffs coupled with the Queen style motifs drive the opener. Swiftly followed by Rats; Ghost mean business. So does Manchester. The crowd clap along in unison. A full throttle opening trio is capped with From The Pinnacle To The Pit.

‘Have you any idea how good it feels to be back in Manchester?!’ proclaims Papa Emeritus IV in welcoming the crowd. Tour debuts for the Toto inspired Spillways before a huge rendition of Call Me Little Sunshine follows. Papa hits the stage in his full vestments to conduct this part of the ritual; Mantum glittering under the impressive light rig.

What is clear to see is that the songs off Impera have already made a huge mark. People know the words, the solos, the crowd participation bits and this elevates the whole dynamic of the show. The album hasn’t been out a month; it really is impressive and a testament to the crowds devotion and the sheer quality of the music.

Whilst this is the Impera Tour, the hard part for Ghost is deciding what to play and what not to play! They have a genuine arsenal of bona fide crowd pleasers. A great balance is struck as a fair clutch of songs from Meliora and Prequelle dominate most of the setlist, but there are nods to Opus Eponymous with a fiendish Ritual and Infestissumam with a blinding rendition of Year Zero that is greeted rapturously and sees the pyro fly.

Along with a solid batch of songs, the band have a few party pieces. He Is has the crowd singing in unison in amongst the twinkling of mobile phone lights, and Miasma sees Papa Nihil busted out of the mausoleum to deliver his emphatic saxophone solo.

Cirice and Faith are two gigantic songs in the Ghost repertoire. The former swings along deliciously as Papa Emeritus IV goads the front rows and the latter keeps the sinister edge of the guitars sharp; the crowd head bang in unison.

Charisma abounds from Emeritus throughout. His movements and jovial nature with the Nameless Ghouls are entertaining, and his patter with the crowd is comical. ‘Would you like a grotesque song? A song with a tremendous amount of ‘oompf’?’ he asks before Mummy Dust. Mummy Dust has that ‘oompf.’ It also sees the keytar taking centre stage. Another party piece.

Party time is what Ghost bring. Papa returns with a blue sparkly jacket as the 60’s infused Kiss The Go-Goat precedes a celebratory cover of Enter Sandman.

As the ritual approaches the final blessing, there are shouts to the road crew and the support acts. Papa Emeritus IV and the Nameless Ghouls offer thanks from the bottom of their hearts. The feeling is clearly mutual as Dance Macabre sends the arena into orbit under the technicolour lights. Confetti flies and and the Manchester crowd show their appreciation accordingly. Square Hammer rounds out the show in blistering fashion.

Ghost are on a streak. They have been since they made their unholy presence known. Tobias Forge, as Papa Emeritus IV and leader of Ghost, has the Midas touch. I’m genuinely not sure if Ghost can do anything wrong as the stars seem constantly aligned for greatness.

Check out Call Me Little Sunshine from Impera below. You can view all of Ghost’s upcoming tour dates here.

Ghost:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats: Website

Twin Temple: Website

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