Review: Ghost – OVO Hydro, Glasgow

With latest album ‘IMPERA’ landing at the coveted number one spot in the US Billboard Top Albums chart with the biggest sales week of 2022 at that time, and much the same story in mainland Europe (number one in four countries including the crucial German territory, number two in the UK National Album chart), Ghost frontman and creator Tobias Forge’s stock has never been healthier. And with a successful run of US live dates already under their belts, Ghost are really hitting their stride and making this arena-tour malarkey look easy.

Once the house lights dim, the strains of ‘IMPERA’ instrumental opening track ‘Imperium’ can be heard, building in volume as it grows, once it fades out, a lone spotlight picks out the silhouette of a Nameless Ghoul peeling off the lighter-than-light opening guitar licks to ‘Kaisarion’, the curtain drops, the song explodes to life in a flurry of smoke plumes, explosions, and lights strafing the darkened arena. The crowd has indeed gone wild. First impressions are of how visual the production is, and not just the stage production itself, but also of how the band of Nameless Ghouls line up; as soon as the first explosions go off, the two lead guitarist Ghouls and bassist Ghoul stride to the front in unison and form an impressive front line awaiting the arrival of Forge. Once Forge/Papa Emeritus arrives, the three Ghouls retreat back in front of the flight of stairs that lead to the drum riser where the Nameless Ghoul on drums is battering the living daylights out of his kit, flanked by more Nameless Ghouls on keyboards and backing vocals. Papa is in fine form, the dates in the US having blown off any post-pandemic cobwebs, and he is covering every inch of the vast stage to make sure everyone – regardless of their position in the venue – gets a good look at him in full splendor. Damn, he looks amazing.

Over the next ninety minutes or so, Ghost pulls out all the stops by dipping into the impressive back catalog stretching back to 2010’s debut album ‘Opus Eponymous’ with the always-crunching ‘Ritual’, the doom-laden ‘Year Zero’ from 2013’s ‘Infestissumam’ has red lighting working overtime, a neck-straining version of the Grammy Award-winning ‘Cirice’ (“Can you hear the rumble?”) joins the likes of ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’, ‘Mummy Dust’, and a gorgeous version of ‘He Is’, all from the ‘Meliora’ album. 2018’s ‘Prequelle’ is also well represented; ‘Rats’ still thrills with every listen, but it’s the instrumental ‘Miasma’ that sticks out the most – and not just for the arrival onstage of a special guest. With a new album to enjoy, ‘IMPERA’ naturally features quite heavily; ‘Hunter’s Moon’, and ‘Call Me Little Sunshine’ are magnificent, as is the hookier-than-hell ‘Spillways’ which gets better and better with every outing, and shows the mainstream appeal of Ghost while still retaining some bite. Most rock bands go through their lifespan without creating a track special enough to crossover into the mainstream, some only manage that feat once, but Ghost has managed it twice so far and both tracks come one after the other as the show reaches its climax. ‘Dance Macabre’ followed by what else but ‘Square Hammer’ provides ten minutes or so of sheer enjoyment that will long linger on for some time. The stage comes to life in an explosion of light and sound as Forge (now dressed like a possessed game show host complete with sparkly jacket) leads his Nameless Ghouls in a glorious musical romp that even the most “They are not metal” cynic would be hard-pressed not to bust a move to. Simply magical.

GhostForge is a revelation, one of the most important players in rock music today, he is a natural regardless of what incarnation of Papa Emeritus he is. When he speaks to the crowd about how for some people it took a lot of courage to come out to the show tonight, it’s very obvious from the heart. As is the moment when after thanking the opening acts (Twin Temple, and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats), he takes a moment to thank the staff working at the venue for helping make the evening a success, he leads a round of applause and walks over to one of the venue security team and points towards the crowd applauding and says “There you go, that’s for you, man” and the guard takes a bow before cajoling more applause from the crowd. A simple gesture that helped bring a personal touch to the evening.

Performing 20+ dates in 15 different countries as part of the ‘Imperatour’, Tobias Forge – and his impressive band of Nameless Ghouls – is quietly setting about the task of making up for lost time by giving audiences the WOW factor through an impressive production where the audience can see where every penny of their hard-earned ticket money was spent. As hard as it can be in 2022, stay away from any YouTube spoilers and instead witness first-hand what Forge described at one point during tonight’s proceedings as “The Spectacle”. The only question that needs to be answered is what night at Download 2023 will Ghost headline? Has to be Sunday, yeah? Ghost has to close the festival surely?

All remaining Ghost tour dates can be found here.

Review – Dave

All live images – Calum Buchan via OVO Hydro social media

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