LIVE REVIEW: Ghost, All Them Witches, Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, 17/11/2019
The frosty winter air wrapped itself around Cardiff Motorpoint Arena like a blanket as Ghost enthusiasts lined up in the streets, ready to enter the venue for an evening of tainted entertainment that had found its way to Wales for the second UK show of the tour. Following their 2018 album Prequelle, the Swedish rock band received a rich throng of positive feedback regarding the release as well as announcing Tobias Forge as the mastermind behind the visually Catholic-influenced act.
The spectators were interlaced with hardcore fans in full catholic attire, as well as wearing a multitude of merchandise including beautiful gothic face masks and even a few plush toys of the lead singer himself. They had to wait patiently however as opening the evening were All Them Witches, a three-piece from Tennessee who emphasised just how relevant blues-rock still is in the music industry.
They encapsulated a cool persona with minimal stage production and a relatively stable stage charisma, winning the crowd over with nothing but their music. Opening on the ambient Funeral For A Great Drunken Bird immediately set the dark and brooding tone as the heavily distorted guitar notes came plucking into the song. Steadily progressing into the lo-fi American country-influenced Dirt Preachers and When God Comes Back, the track was complete with hypnotic, slow ringing solos and a gritty set of vocals tying the ensemble together. Finishing up their show, they were led off by a large round of applause from thoroughly warmed up onlookers. 6/10
Hidden behind a black veil, the anticipation of Ghost’s appearance could be felt like an electric current coursing through the fans resting on the barrier, as an enormous marble staircase paved its way from the centre of the stage outwards with three enormous stain-glassed windows in the foreground.
The curtain and darkness fell and there on the staircase stood the silhouetted nameless ghouls of Ghost, instruments in hand and it was not until the first bright burst of terrific white light, that the ghouls began to flaunt across the stage to the opening xylophone and guitar notes of Ashes and synthesized keys inviting out lead singer/addresser of the clergy, Cardinal Copia.
Hanging up his Papa Emeritus persona, Forge has since adorned his new role with great finesse and poise, moving around the stage like a slicked-up 1920’s man about town. His bright red suit was easily visible from the back of the arena and kept him the main focus for the majority of the first four songs. Rats brought the audience out of their daydreaming and into an excitable frenzy, leaping and reaching out to Cardinal Copia every moment he approached the front of the platform.
During song intervals, the two lead guitarists put on a theatrical solo vs solo duel which left the audience cheering and giggling before an unusual but familiar rusty squeaking sound fell over the speakers. Within moments a spotlight slapped on the lead singer as he rode out in front of 4000 people on a recumbent bicycle (now mainstream media stapled as “The Saw Bicycle’). Quickly losing sync with the audio, he abandoned the gimmick and continued to encourage and thank the crowd for the turnout they received.
Included in the setlist were Faith, Mary On A Cross, an abridged instrumental of Helvetesfönster and From The Pinnacle To The Pit, with a beefy bass note introduction to the gothic rock anthem. Concluding with an encore of the more dramatic numbers Dance Macabre and Square Hammer, the highlights also included Miasma and Papa Emeritus’ saxophone solo, followed by an Ax-edge Keytar section and from the first song until the last, the production was a visual feast. Bursts of flames, Co2, smoke and a colossal abundance of confetti quickly confirmed that this was in the running for the most impressive stage setup/performance that had been delivered by a rock band in Cardiff of 2019.
Ghost addressed their Welsh clergy of fans and judging from their response, quickly established that their performance was welcomed. An incredible show from start to finish, it in the process ticked many show requirements off with a flourish of their metaphorical pen. 9/10
Words and photos by Nathan Roach.