Live Review: Ghost @ The KOKO, London (21/12/15)


The devil made them do it…

Ghost are a phenomenon, 3 albums in & their popularity continues to grow. Each release better than the last with the latest, Meliora taking the top spot in my own personal top 10 albums of 2015 (the second time a Ghost album has graced that spot).

Just what is it about Ghost that makes them so unique? The imagery? The satanic lyrical content? Their incredible song-writing ability? Papa Emeritus’s soulful yet powerful vocal range? It’s all of these things & more.

I’ve seen Ghost live twice before this once as a joint headliner with Gojira & the other as support for Alice in Chains…both in 2013. Both shows were great but they were just stepping stones towards this…a full UK headline tour in support of their new album.

The KOKO in Camden, London is sold out 4 days before Christmas. Anticipation is high & it just builds the closer we get to the arrival of the band on stage. Ghost are all about gothic imagery & sounds, the lights dim…the smell of incense is in the air & you get the impression that Satan himself is in attendance.

The cheer that erupts as the five Nameless Ghouls take to the stage is deafening & they kick off straight into Spirit off the new album. The rest of the lights come up to reveal the third incarnation of Papa Emeritus. His stage presence is immense & he controls the crowd like a cult leader dictating at a passionate sermon.

Chatter is kept to a minimum at first with the band confidently striding the stage letting the music do the talking for them. The sound in the KOKO is fantastic, every riff (which Ghost have bags of) sending shivers up spines, every keyboard flourish easy to identify & best of all, Papa Emeritus’s vocals being crystal clear.

Almost every song off the new album is played & greeted as if they have been staples of Ghost’s shows for years (it’s a pity that Dues in Absentia is the one that is left out though). The new stuff sounds incredible live, From the Pinnacle to the Pit in particular making hairs on necks stand up.

Surprisingly about halfway through the show Papa Emeritus disappears off the stage for a moment & returns having lost the Cardinal/Priest costume, instead wearing a ringmaster style outfit, white gloves & jet black hair on show! It’s a very different look & his stage behaviour changes to fit as well. He & the rest of the band seem re-energised, prancing around the stage, having fun & really opening up with the crowd…he even cracks a few jokes here & there!

It is fascinating to see Ghost making steps towards the future, their evolution.

Musically Ghost stay away from their first album choosing to only play two songs from it but both sound better than they ever have. Ritual in particular sounds heavier than it ever has before & it fits perfectly amongst the more riff heavy modern stuff.

Time flies by in a blur, 16 songs later & Ghost crack out their cover of If You Have Ghosts by Rocky Erickson. It’s a popular song with the crowd but it leaves me feeling under-whelmed. I’m just not big on covers being staples of bands set-lists when they have such a back-catalogue of quality songs to perform.

The band & crowd are united as one in voice for the encore of Monstrance Clock, it’s the perfect sing-along & perfect way to end an incredible show.

I can’t stress enough just how far Ghost have come over the last few years both on record & with their live shows. A sold-out KOKO just seems too small for them in the end & it’s clear that they are on track to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.

You either love Ghost or you’re wrong….

Full Set-list:
Spirit
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Ritual
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Majesty
Body & Blood
Devil Church
Cirice
Year Zero
Spoksonat
He Is
Absolution
Mummy Dust
Jigolo Har Megiddo
Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
If You Have Ghosts (Rocky Erickson Cover)

Encore:
Monstrance Clock


Ghost @ The KOKO, London (21/12/15)
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