On Good Friday, a night of ghoulish fun descended on Birmingham for the final night of Ghost’s Imperatour in the UK. After already playing their biggest show to date on these shores at the O2 Arena a few days before, the birthplace of metal provided one last chance to party with the papa in celebration of all that Ghost had accomplished over the last decade.
Laying the table for the upcoming frightening fiesta was placed on the shoulders of satanic doo-wop duo Twin Temple. Their combination of Hammer horror theatrics and spooky Amy Winehouse lullabies goes hand in hand with Ghost like a vampire to blood. Just like their brothers and sisters in satan, they’re a true one of a kind band that backs up their spectacle and niche with a great display of musicianship and solid tracks. Each member of the onstage band gets time to shine from the saxophone to the keys though the majority of the set is anchored around the band’s power couple. With the band’s theatrics and Jazz style breaks in songs that make the set feel very loose and off the cuff, there’s probably room for a few more songs in the set but that will come with longer set durations. Twin Temple should be beside Ghost at every step, they perfectly set the tone, win people over and don’t overstay their welcome. They didn’t just set the table, they lit the candles, pulled you out a chair and sat you down for the seance.
Overall score: 8/10
England’s own Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats changed the mood slightly, choosing to lurk in the shadows instead of basking in their glory. Last playing these venues in 2014 when supporting Black Sabbath, their smoky sound is very different to the other bands on the bill. In that though, there’s a great contrast as they trudge up to the stage with no frills, just big stoner riffs and grooves that you can bop your head along to and enjoy your beverage of choice. It’s hard to imagine them catapulting themselves forwards with slots like this but they’re always going to be welcomed wherever they turn up. There will always be a place for music like this in the second city, the deadbeats and their peculiar but fun kinsman felt at home here.
Overall score: 7/10
From the opening notes of Kaisarion, the party is well and truly underway and it’s immediately apparent that there is no stage too big for Ghost anymore. An incredibly diverse crowd of men, women and children (with a few ghouls in full attire for good measure) is instantly eating out of their hands once Papa Emeritus IV finally reveals his presence. What’s apparent in this opening run of tracks is that it’s not just one era of Ghost that people have come to see, all of their output since 2010’s Opus Eponymous sounds just as big as the track before it. You’d think that the entire audience has been bought into them since that initial release with the reverence each song gets.
The darker and more sinister tracks like Meliora’s big hitters From The Pinnacle To The Pit and Cirice are what really opened Ghost up to a mainstream rock and metal audience and at this point, they are anthems. On the flip side to that in the first half of the set, Mary On A Cross and Hunter’s Moon are simply as big as big rock songs get, packed with so much charisma and flair. The nameless ghouls, which now can be seen nearly anywhere you look on the stage due to their increasing number, are not just background members in the live show. They’re great physical performers themselves and are able to perfectly execute these different musical entities that Ghost has taken the shape of. A tense and technical duel between the guitarists which ended with Black Sabbath’s Iron Man was sure to be a lasting memory of the show that encapsulated the Ghouls and their own brilliance. Also, it will never not be fun to be joined by total strangers in shouting the word rats at the top of your voice.
Not to be outdone at his own sermon, Papa Emeritus IV is even flashier and fierce than those who have come before him. Complete with costume changes aplenty, he gets you up off your feet like ABBA’s bastard sibling on Spillways, which is a real highlight of their catalogue in the live environment, before tempting you into the darkness of Call Me Little Sunshine. Make no mistake about it, this is the house that Forge built and he rocks the place like a macabre Mick Jagger.
Dipping back into some older and more evil cuts, Year Zero and He Is in a live environment are why Ghost are unquestionably one of the best bands of the decade. For such unique and extravagant tracks to go down like festival-closing moments is nothing short of remarkable. Oh, and they’re not even close to being done yet. Next up Ghost hits you with a switch back and forth between all-out fun and Universal style horror. Prequelle instrumental Miasma sounds like a radio hit with the crowd singing along to the melody which hits a fever pitch once Papa Nihil is brought back to deliver the saxophone solo. Mummy Dust then drags you back to the crypt only so Kiss The Go-Goat can bring you back to life again.
Despite all these shifts in mood, Forge’s in-between song chattering on stage perfectly sews it all together with his character study of a cult leader that speaks like an undercover cop trying to fit in amongst teenagers. Though the band never does a traditional fake walk-off encore, it’s apparent that night is nearly done once they break out the Enter Sandman cover from the Metallica Blacklist. There is no other way that the night could end than the last two tracks. Their combination of massive rock songs that get you moving and metal anthems that pay tribute to the ultimate evil is perfectly executed on Dance Macabre and Square Hammer. Confetti fills the air as Papa, now sporting a dazzling teal blazer, sends everyone home with two singalongs for the ages. A bow from the ghouls and their charming leader followed by one further bow from the man pulling the strings brings the curtain crashing down on another devilishly wicked night in Birmingham.
What this tour signifies in the grander scheme of things is that Ghost’s first arena run off the back of Prequelle was very much the beginning of something new instead of the final form. Their status as an arena band is solidified and a festival headliner remains the only step they haven’t climbed to just yet. With this band in particular, you know the theatrics and visual performances are always going to be up to scratch. What is crucial at this point is that it’s not just what the eye can see that separates Ghost from the pack, they’ve got the back catalogue and live credibility to match and each selection from their five full-lengths is deserving of an audience this big. The big red upstairs would be proud indeed of all that Forge and his many ghouls have accomplished in his name but there is still more work to do.
In the words of Papa Emeritus IV, hail satan.
Overall score: 10/10