Photos and review by Alex Seeley
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Excitement permeated the packed F.M. Kirby Center as it often does, but this night felt a little different. Through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, fans could be seen wearing pope’s attire and fiendish face paint paying homage to characters portrayed by frontman Tobias Forge. Others opted to wear a horned “Ghoul” mask in celebration of the uniformly anonymous members of the band. Tension rose to great heights before the lights went out and an ominous recording of a little girl reciting “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” sounded to set the mood for the fun that would follow last Wednesday.
A drum rhythm filled the air as band members revealed themselves, launching into “Rats,” the lead single off Ghost’s latest concept album concerning themes of the plague. The crowd roared as frontman “Cardinal Copia” emerged. “This wretched mischief is now coursing through your souls, never to let go,” he sang. The lyrics would seem to prove true, as the audience was hooked through the two-hour-long performance.
Keeping an audience’s attention as the sole performance of the night is no doubt a daunting responsibility. Luckily, Ghost have many tricks up their sleeve as they drew from four full-length albums and two EPs. From 2010’s breakout “Opus Eponymous” to this year’s pop-leaning “Prequelle,” there was plenty of variety between near-danceable tunes, ballads and straight-up metal songs, like 2016’s riff showcase “Cirice,” which won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
While Ghost might be mistaken for a group who take itself seriously, its catalog is full of sing-along moments and hooks that get stuck in your head. Dialogue is surprisingly comical between songs, adding even more levity to otherwise dark lyrical themes. After the slow-burning ballad “He Is,” Cardinal Copia promised to perform a song so heavy that it would “wobble your asses.” The band soon ripped into “Mummy Dust,” showcasing growled vocals and a blazing synth keytar solo. After a cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts” and a couple of hits, including this year’s “Dance Macabre,” the night was over as quickly as it began. As Ghost departed and the house lights returned, it was amusing to imagine what audible and visual innovations the band would be wielding one day on its inevitable return.