To witness a Ghost show is to witness a play: It involves a protagonists and antagonists, different scenes, an intermission, and costume changes. Tuesday night’s show at Revention Music Center marked the first return of the band to Houston since last embarking on a tour as support for Iron Maiden. This time, they’re touring the “Rats! on the Road” tour for their upcoming album Prequelle. I had, unfortunately, missed the bands last stop in town, so this was the first time I’ve had the chance to see them in about four years. Since then, the band has won some Grammys, gone through legal battles, and the founder of the band, Tobias Forge, has recently — officially — revealed himself as the face of Ghost. However, the face we saw last night was not of Forge’s, but rather Cardinal Copia, the new persona. The previous costumes of Forge have included variation of the Pope character “Papa Emeritus.” With Copia, the leader no longer sports a hat and instead goes for a silicone mask that is, I will admit, very realistic without too much inspection.
Arriving at the venue I was greeted with a line that stretched to the back of the venue, the complete other side. I was truly not expecting this large of a turnout. Walking up closer to doors — to pick up my ticket — was a reminder that the most dedicated of Houston Ghost fans arrived and set up camp early — many in corpse paint that resembled PE. Funny story: In the photo pit, as I was waiting for the band to take stage, I turned around and saw a kid, no older than 15, in Emeritus makeup, giving me what I believe was a death stare for being in front of him, so sorry for that. The show, if you wanted more than general admission, also offered a VIP meet-and-greet package; the photos I saw of fans meeting the Cardinal showed some getting super excited that they ended up either a) speechless or b) in tears. Sometimes both. Ghost fans are not afraid to show their support, and I know that makes the energy transfer from band to audience and vice versa so much easier.
The set opened up with 15 minutes of choir music as the crowd had the chance to gaze over the elaborate stage setup: a pearly white staircase leading up to a mosaic of Papa Emeritus. As the clock struck 9:15, the band took stage and kicked into Prequelle’s “Ashes.” Being that the album is not out yet, the choice as the set opener was one that most of the crowd couldn’t sing along to. However, the fourth song, “Ritual” is when the hits started to roll in. At first glance, it is hard to imagine a melodic — very poppy — doom/black metal band from Sweden winning Grammys and playing festivals and tour all over the world, but the near sold-out show proves that myth wrong.
After each song, Forge would venture backstage, usually while one of the “Nameless Ghoul” guitarists would break into a solo. Around song 10 is when “Papa Nihil,” and I am not sure if it was Forge, came out in a white gown and kicked into a solo of his own, but this time in saxophone, that is. Perhaps it’s not all that weird to see a saxophone solo at the show last night, especially since there was also a female backup vocalist — both of which did not happen last time I saw them on their “Infestissumam” tour.
The first “scene” concluded when someone came on the announcer and informed the crowd that there would be a 15-minute intermission. Following this, the band went on to do an additional 10 songs, but my favorite is one that has some deep Texas connection, their famed cover of 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts.” An encore quickly followed, which featured the tour debut of the song “Monstrance Clock” as well as Dead Can Dance’s “the Host of Seraphim.”
As the band comes back around each time, they get bigger opportunities to play larger venues to more fans. It worked for Kiss and it works for Ghost.