Ghost is continuing to haunt North America as the dubbed “The Ultimate Tour Named Death” made a stop at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The explosive band from San Antonio, Texas Nothing More provided direct support.
Vocalist Jonny Hawkins wasted little time as he unleashed Nothing More and its uncompromised energy onto the crowd. They were a prefect balance of raw power and technical cohesiveness, which makes them truly unique. From the opening song, “Let’em Burn,” their infectious attack came off the stage at a furious pace. The band is still riding the wave of their release back in 2017 called “The Stories We Tell Ourselves.” They maneuvered though “Don’t Stop,” “Fadein/Fadeout,” and “Go To War.” The rest of the material came from the self titled album released in 2014 with “Christ Copywrite,” “Jenny,” “Ocean Floor,” and “This Is The Time (Ballast).” Along with the vibrant Hawkins, the band consisted of Mark Vollelunga (guitar), Daniel Oliver (bass), and Ben Anderson on drums. With a musical style that isn’t easily defined Nothing More has stuck to an impressive work ethic and have brought their music to the laps of audiences across the globe. One of the highlights of the night was when Hawkins tamed the one of kind machine called “The Scorpion Tail.” Once aboard the contraption the band closed the night with a snippet of the Queen cover “We Will Rock You.” It was another great show by a band everybody should be aware of by now but judging by some of the responses from the crowd this was a new musical adventure for some and I’m sure Nothing More added people to their ever increasing fan base.
Ghost has been a band that has risen in popularity with every release and tour. I first saw the band in 2012 on their first run through North America called the “13 Dates Of Doom” in a very small venue with about a hundred people. Three albums later Ghost now inhabits much larger venues and has rabid fan base that consumes the bands music as well as its lore. Mastermind vocalist Tobias Forge has retired Papa Emeritus I, II, and III and has given the lead vocalist role to his newest creation, the flamboyant Cardinal Copia. The Nameless Ghouls, and now Ghoulettes, still provide the musical backdrop as the Cardinal, using his charismatic charm, commanded his followers like a Sunday sermon. With a stage set-up that resembled a cathedral, the cast of characters took to the stage as “Ashes” rang through the arena but the ignition was turn on as they kicked into “Rats.” The song has been a smash hit and was tailored made for a concert opener. It comes off their latest album offering ‘Prequelle’ which was released in 2018. They continued with “Absolution” and one of my personal favorites “Faith.”
Ghost was also celebrating the 50th anniversary of Papa Nihil, the original lead singer back in 1969, and showcased a couple of songs that were recently released, “Mary On A Cross” and “Kiss the Go-Goat” which was played later in the set. “Cirice” is always a crowd favorite with that infectious riff and hook that keeps your head bobbing throughout the song and that was true once again at this show.
Every great stage show has its share of characters and costume changes. The stage has a few extra players now as three guitar players, two keyboardists, bassist, and a drummer perform under the silver masks and black uniforms that keep them anonymous and visually striking. Papa Nihil made appearance in “Miasma” to play sax to a rousing response from the crowd. Cardinal Copia changed outfits throughout the middle part of the show. Shedding the red suite for a white one and then a solid black one. He was like an actor on in a Broadway Play that sucked you in to his character and held you spellbound when he spoke.
The show ripped through songs like “Ritual,” “Year Zero,” “He Is,” and the heavy hitting “Mummy Dust.” The set closed with another break-though hit from ‘Prequelle” called “Dance Macabre” which turned the arena into an oversized dance club. The lone encore just might be the best song in the catalog, “Square Hammer,” and it brought the house down just like a closing number should do.
Ghost is hard band for some people to wrap their heads around at times. Their satanic visuals and lyrical content suggest the music should be heavy, dark, and aggressive, but when you dive into the catalog you are hit with so many musical directions that touch into metal, hard rock, doom, and pop. Their audience may have started within the heavy metal crowd but on the strength of genuine rock radio hits, the band has a growing audience that draws from people scattered though out the vast musical landscape of genres and styles. The visual stage show is now being fully realized with moving into larger venues. Forge has shown no fear in pushing Ghost down any musical avenue and that freedom has paid off with each release. It is sheer brilliance that he has the ability to insert a whole new character into the role of vocalist and change the narrative anytime he wants. This tour shows how far Ghost has come and I would have never predicted that this masked band from Sweden playing Station 4, a small little club in St. Paul, Minnesota, seven years ago would rise to the level of success they are having now. Their future seems to limitless but the direction they travel is anybody’s guess, and that’s what makes them so fun.
Review & Photography by Jeff Kunze