Ghost @ John Cain Arena, Melbourne VIC 4/10/2023

There are few bands who are so visually captivating as Ghost. The Swedish rockers, lead by Papa Emeritus IV (Tobias Forge) have visited Australia before on festival line-ups, but their current visit is their first headlining tour and it’s so much bigger and better than anything local fans have seen before.

Unfortunately due to production issues relating to Ghost’s stage setup, the Northern Territory’s Southeast Desert Metal were unable to perform. By the time the main attraction rolled around, the packed out Arena, with many attendees being decked out head to toe dressed as the band’s frontman, had been waiting for over an hour, but the wait was worth it.

Those who have seen Ghost perform before know the band spare no expense on the theatrics. This time around, the cathedral-style set came complete with stained glass windows depicting the different incarnations of Forge’s Papa Emertius persona throughout the band’s history. The religious iconography, flipped on its head in a way only glamorous rock’n’roll could, extended to all parts of the show.

Opening with Kaisarion, Ghost performed an almost two-hour show packed with fan favourites. Even the newer tracks like Spillways had the masses singing along as Papa IV strutted his way across the stage, accompanied by eight Nameless Ghouls.

Absolution saw one of the most gratuitous guitar solos this reviewer has had ever seen, and gave the Ghouls an opportunity to take the spotlight, as they continued to do at moments throughout the show. The sense of fun and humour is something different this time around. While Ghost have always been an incredibly entertaining live band, the different incarnations of Papa Emertius and his Ghouls give each chapter in the band’s life a different personality, and in turn a different live experience.

While the Nameless Ghouls stuck out the shows in black outfits and terrifying gas masks, Papa Emertius IV is not one to shy away from costume changes. As the show progressed, each change became more elaborate, and by the end, Forge was decked out in stunning robes and regalia that would make any priest jealous.

An appearance by Papa Nihil, who was resurrected on stage for a saxophone solo only to then be wheeled off, shows just how dedicated Ghost are to creating a memorable experience. Most bands would not bother bringing out an entirely new character, complete with his own props, for a thirty second cameo, but Ghost are aware it’s what fans have come to expect.

Going from new fan favourite, the melodic Mary On A Cross, to one of the band’s heaviest tracks Mummy Dust allows Forge to show off his vocal range better than any other part of the show. His ability to engage with audiences regardless as to the tone of the song was one of the most entertaining parts of the evening.

Despite an audience request for a five-song encore, Ghost compromised with three, ending on Kiss the Go-Goat, Dance Macabre, and possibly their most well-known track, Square Hammer.

By the end of the show, it was clear that the band were exhausted, but appreciative of their Melbourne fans. The Nameless Ghouls have never been so entertaining, and Papa himself was at his charismatic peak. We can only hope we’re treated to another ritual in the not too distant future.

Live Review By Sofie Marsden

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