SHOW REVIEW: GHOST AT THE STUDIO AT WEBSTER HALL, JUNE 1, 2011
Ghost are a band with a gimmick, and it’s a very, very effective gimmick: they write incredibly catchy hard rock songs, the kind of Second Coming of Sabbath-type shit that lots and lots of bands are trying, and failing miserably, to produce even as I type this. Listen to “Elizabeth” and try not to move your body; crank “Con Clavi Con Dio” and do everything you can not to get it stuck in your head for days after. These tasks are near-impossible.
And I’m only too happy to report that, in a live setting, the aforementioned side-effects of those songs (complete inability to stop rocking, singing to oneself at all hours of the day and night, whatever the opposite of erectile dysfunction is, etc.) are only amplified; music this infectious is meant to be experienced in a communal setting, and the band’s perfect recreation of pretty much the entirety of their eponymous opus, Opus Eponymous, ensures that only one with the most rigid of sticks up his ass won’t be singing along from start to finish. Boiled down to its simplest element, Ghost’s success is based upon a really, really simple fact: they are excellent songwriters.
And, oh yeah, they have a flair for the theatrical. It’s rock music. It’s SUPPOSED to be theatrical. THEY’RE STANDING ON A STAGE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. If you can’t have fun at a Ghost show because they’re wearing costumes and are ostensibly playing characters, then I had better not find any albums by King Diamond, Immortal, or any number of other great artists in your collection, either.
Besides — atmosphere really DOES add to the awesomeness (or lack of awesomeness) of a live performance, and Ghost certainly know how to create an atmosphere. When the band arrived onstage to Jocelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” (a.k.a. “the music from the ritualistic orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut“), I got the feeling of crawling towards the precipice of a roller coaster, knowing that any second now, you and everyone around you is gonna go WHOOSH! (There’s the power of that whole “communal setting” thing again.) That the vocalist known only as The Ghoul With No Name never seems to stop staring at the audience with eerie focus and limits his between-song banter to some equivalent of “Thanks for coming out tonight” before the set closer… these things add to the fun of the proceedings. It’s like the music is already a bulging muscle, and then the illusion of the band as this wholly evil, wholly unknowable entity is a shot of steroids. Ghost would probably still work if they were just a bunch of dudes with long hair and denim jackets, but it’s so much better that they’re NOT just that.
In fact, I don’t think the word “just” ever enters in Ghost’s vocabulary. They succeed not just at putting on a concert, but at creating an experience. I would imagine that only people who still have anything negative to say about them haven’t had that experience, for Ghost are ideally suited to convert naysayers. The band will be back to tour North America this fall; make sure you buy the ticket and take the ride.