Its Friday night and Manchester is absolutely buzzing, there are at least 5 heavy metal tours in the towns various venues tonightand the city is a throng with fans and tshirts emblazoned with various logos. Here at The Revival we are concentrating on the main show in town, over at the O2 Apollo, the biggest venue is hosting Ghost as the visit on the Popestar world tour.
For those unfamiliar with the band, Ghost are a progressive metal outfit, who's front man Papa Emeritus III
dresses as an evil Pope figure. The remaining members of the band are labeled "Nameless Ghouls"; anonymous musicians who dress all in black with identical masks. The look, sound and overall theme of the group have given them quite the cult following, from small beginings they are now selling out huge concert halls up and down the country.
To start the evening we have American act Zombi, a two piece instrumental progressive space rock band. Bathed in lights of purple and blues the duo play their synth infused music to note by note perfection. But the response from the crowd is subdued to say the least, polite applause follows each song, but not much more. It must be hard to get a full rock sound when you are a duo of a keyboardist and a drummer and I can see why they are not winning the fans over. To describe their sound its like listening to the sound track of a 80's sci-fi movie.
The main event is drawing near, once the support kit is cleared off the stage we are left with a stage set, but in the theme of a church, stone effect steps lead to a drum riser and keyboard riser. The stage floor covered in black and white tiles (not that you could see them unless you're on the balcony) and the back of the set in stained glass church windows. The attention to detail just on the stage dressing is second to none. A rather theatrical sound check now ensues proving much better than the normal bearded guy shouting "1, 2, 1, 2" down the mic. Incense sticks are lit on either side of the stage filling the auditorium with that distinctive aroma. This incredibly build up to the show helps increase the anticipation, the atmosphere is palpable as the stage time draws near.
The lights dim and the Nameless Ghouls take to the stage, all five of them have their set place as the lights rise and new song Square Hammer is pumped out. Papa walks the stone steps between the two risers at the back of the stage performing from on high, leaving the ghouls centre stage for the first song.
Smoke bombs go off as they move into Pinnacle, Papa moving to the front commanding as the evil Pope character. Not like the normal front man of any heavy metal band, he never breaks character once staying solid in his portrayal of the clergy, flowing effortlessly across the stage in his robes.
Secular Haze and Con Clavi Con Dio follow on as the band as a whole deliver the astounding performance you would expect from Grammy winners. In the interlude between songs Papa jokes with the crowd, but remaining steadfast in character, even bringing out the Sinister Stisters, two nuns, for a bit of banter mid set.
Each Ghoul is given his (or her) chance in the limelight, mounting the stone plinths at various points for solo performances, whilst the band revolves around Papa, he lets his Ghouls shine. By far the heaviest of the bands repertoire Mummy Dust fills the room with doom and darkness and ends with a confetti cannon filling the venue with Papa Emeritus dollar bills.
Ritual starts off the encore, probably the bands best known song, from their debut album the guitar tune gets you from the start and drags you into the world of Ghost, if you weren't already there. To finish things off Monsterance closes the night before the band take their bows.
Rarely have I left a gig buzzing as I did tonight from start to finish of Ghost's set they delivered progressive metal perfection. This was easily my gig of the year and although its only March it'll be hard to top that. Ghost return to these shores in August to headline the Bloodstock Festival, and with a full stage production its going to be the show of the summer!