Ghost, Spiritbox, Lucifer – Zenith Metropole, Toulouse – 23rd May 2023
Just over a year since Ghost was at Manchester Arena (our review) promoting the Imperia album. The reboot entitled the Re-Imperatour is currently heading around Europe before another North American assault, but with a clutch of dates in France, we hop on Air France (once again) to witness the Ghost ritual in Toulouse (once again).
The experience of going to a gig on foreign soil is always a bit of an adventure. However, having done the same trip three years ago, Toulouse, speaking in French and racing through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris for connecting flights holds no fears. There’s also the opportunity to have a bit of r&r, with a sunny day spent traversing the old and new areas of the city, taking in a sight or two, spotting fellow fans in their tour shirts and generally absorbing the Fench vibe of sitting in leafy squares with a cafe au lait and pastry, watching the world go by.
But there’s a gig to attend and a short, very straight walk from a well-placed Air BnB leads to the Zenith. A venue that reminds one of Leeds Arena; a broad expanse of seating with plenty of standing room on the floor. Well appointed – some very hi-tech Dyson hand dryers in the toilettes – with a decent capacity, there’s about 7,000 in tonight which is comfortably right for Ghost. Relatively intimate as far as areas go. And you’re not spending half your night queuing for a beer or a chocolate-coated waffle. Sadly, the baguette sellers who roamed the seating area last time are absent this year, denying us the experience of scoffing at a jambon et fromage baguette while rocking out.
The usual double bill of support before the main attraction, sees Lucifer fronted by Johanna Sadonis, and Canada’s Spiritbox with Courtney LaPlante stage centre and alternating between melodic and harsh vocals, doing their thing for the gender balance. However, the anticipation heightens as a white curtain falls at the lip of the stage while the stage is prepped for the main event.
Ghost arrive onstage just after 21:30 and any thoughts of if there’s a curfew or if the set is about to be clipped can be parked as the nameless ghoul, twin guitars/bass combo briefly line up at the front of the small walkway before making way for Papa to skip forth and rip out Kaisarion and Rats. There is indeed a scourge in the guise of sanctity, as the band swap between ‘one old, one new’ and throw in a whole heap of theatricality and the combination of the heavy and the melodic. Papa Nihil gets shocked to life (again) from the sax part in Miasma and Papa himself comes out in full papal robes, swinging the incense for Year Zero with the stage saturated in deep coloured light
In the set changes, a couple of older songs have been cut. There’s no Devil Church or From The Pinnacle To The Pit (and Absolution has been absent a while too) but a couple of new ones boost the quota from Imperia. They make quite an impact; the highlight is a stomping and hefty Watcher In The Sky while Respite On The Spitalfields makes sense as the big ballad set closer – “we will make our way together, I’ll be the shadow, you’ll be the light” is a goosebump moment and the phone lights are out in force. Meanwhile, the cover of Enter Sandman has been replaced by Genesis’ Jesus He Knows Me which represents their latest Phantomime covers release. No place thought for the excellent take of Television’s See No Evil…this time.
We’re informed that if we say “Oui!” we’ll get three extra songs and as Kiss The Goat, Dance Macabre and Square Hammer get pumped out, we’re well after 23:30. “Hearing the chimes close to midnight” is no joke! The fireworks sparkle and drip from the front of the lighting gantry as Emmylou Harris plays from the PA and the nine-strong band line up for a bow before Papa stands alone to take his final applause. Decked out in his shiny red jacket in front of the stage risers and stained glass backdrop, it’s quite a scene, underlining why Ghost is a band worthy of the adulation.