Saturday, February 04, 2012

48 Hours Of Ritual

Ghost / Blood Ceremony / Ancient VVisdom
The Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco
February 1, 2012

"On this night of ritual.. invoking The Master... to procreate the unholy bastard.."

I checked out Ghost over a year ago because of the underground buzz about them... but it took me 3 listens for their debut album to *click* with me. I can't remember the last time I even gave an album or a band multiple chances to win me over like that. Usually, if I don't like something the first time I move on... but Ghost had other plans for me. Opus Eponymous has been at the top of my personal album playlist for almost a year now. Tonight's show was the smallest venue of their debut North American Tour and I couldn't comprehend how the band would be able to fit on the Bottom of the Hill's tiny stage.

Although this show sold out a month in advance, San Francisco crowds can be such jaded mofos. However, when the 6 band members emerged from the back of the club and walked down the hallway to the stage you could literally feel the entire crowd freeze for a split second in anticipation. It's been awhile since there's been a show around here with this much built up hype and anticipation; the fact that Ghost had dropped off Enslaved's U.S. Tour 5 months ago only ratcheted it up that much more.

Ghost sings about such everyday subjects as Satan and human sacrifices.. but their crowd is smiling and singing along to their every word. Magical. The Swedes opened with 'Con Clavi Con Dio' and then straight into 'Elizabeth' and I can't remember the last time a band came through town for the first time and the crowd knew all of their songs. Magical. Every song off their album was played with the live versions being even more robust and compelling than the recorded versions. At this early stage in their history I think that Ghost's "agenda" can be defined by the cover song they chose to fill out their set... a stunning version of The Beatles 'Here Comes The Sun' that turns the hippie Beatles message into an upside down cross that "The Son" of the Dark Lord is coming but "it's alright". Any doubt about this blasphemous use of George Harrison's words was erased by the crying baby intro tape that proceeded the song. BRILLIANT! During the set closing 'Ritual', Papa Emeritus gave communion to the front row with wine and wafers as the band closed out the song.

Communion In The Front Row

'Ritual' is already one of those iconic songs for me and it's by far THE catchiest song ever written about human sacrifice. When Ghost launched into it to close the set I was seeing it performed live in person for the first time; it was one of those great Music Geek moments that will never be replicated. After the show, Ghost held an audience with a human named James Hetfield... and then graced myself and my colleagues with an audience as well. The band were gracious and I thank them for granting us mere mortals with the meeting... I will never say or post anything publicly to ruin Ghost's mystique. However, I will reveal that Papa Emeritus was already very aware of my involvement with Murder In The Front Row before we met and had requested an audience with me. True.

I was attracted to Metal as a kid because it gave me an escape from my boring teenage suburban environment. Most of my earliest Metal heroes like Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate didn't make me want to fuck shit up; their songs gave me a place for my imagination to run to and escape my teen reality. Now, here in the 21st Century, Ghost reminds me of that feeling again. This band makes me feel like that teenage Metalhead again... and for that I am grateful to the Swedes.

Orchid shirts = 2 (including mine). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. Then 24 hours later it was...

Ghost / Blood Ceremony / Ancient VVisdom
The Roxy, Hollywood, California
February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day 2012 and I basically repeated the previous day... which was not a bad thing at all. Tonight was also the 13th and final show of Ghost's debut North AmericanTour... and with only 3 hours of sleep I found myself jetting down to the Burbank Airport first thing in the morning. No rest for the wicked, man.

After spending the afternoon doing work-related duties and having an awesome Ahi Tuna / mashed potatoes / salad lunch we headed over to the infamous Rainbow Bar & Grill for pre-show drinks. The fact that The Rainbow is right next door to the venue is one thing I actually like about L.A.. The opening acts came recommended to me by some friends... and they weren't bad... but in the end neither band has songs... and in Blood Ceremony's case they try too hard at being "dark" and it simply looks forced IMO... and a flute is NOT Metal and never will be. Anyway...

This was one of those shows that I would call "triumphant". Unlike the night before, Ghost had a full stage and lighting to work with in front of the sold out crowd of 600... and they absolutely killed it. For a band on their first tour they perform effortlessly and with awesome confidence and charisma; it's mesmerizing to witness when combined with their infectious songs. Ghost are already a polarizing band, with people either loving or hating them for whatever reasons... but I would guess that 95% of the haters haven't seen the band live (and watching YouTube videos doesn't count)... and live is where this band transcends most others.

Ghost converts Hollywood

'Ritual' is already one of those iconic songs for me... and when Ghost launched into it to close the night and their tour the crowd went crazy and sang along as they had the night before in S.F. It was (again) one of those magical Music Geek moments. Also as with the night before, I'll never see any of the band's songs performed in exactly the same way again... because the next time they visit America in April it will be in front of bigger audiences and many more fans. It's always special to catch a band at the beginning of something special and I've been lucky to have witnessed this ascension with many of my favorite bands over the years. It's cool to add these Swedes to that list. Fifteen minutes prior to Ghost taking the stage for the biggest show of their young history to date this happened:

On This Night Of Ritual

I will never say or post anything publicly to ruin Ghost's mystique... but I will say that I have talked to the Nameless Ghouls with their hoods off.. and I've had conversations with Papa Emeritus. TERRIFYING.. Why even worry about what the band members look like?? Why speculate if they're really Satanic? Who fucking cares. Suspend reality you bitter jaded fucks.

Ghost are not simply another band who wears costumes and masks onstage. They have great songs with fantastic melodies and lyrics and an overtly theatrical approach that makes them more than simply a "Metal band". They entertain instead of simply playing songs and that's something very, very few bands do these days. Ghost remind me that sometimes a band can simply be F-U-N... and the fact that they present themselves in a retro Hammer Films horror darkness way with a Satanic wrapper has made me even more of a fan. It's not a sin to smile at a Metal show... especially if the band is singing about Satan.

If you bought one of every Ghost merch item you would have paid $210. The merch Ghost sold was awesome; their merch company totally rules. On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. I sold my soul for Lock 'N Loll...

"Recite now from the text... pray for all to die."