LIVE: Ghost / Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats / Twin Temple @ The O2 Arena, London

By Dave Stewart

If you know anything about Ghost, it’s that they thrive on the theatrical. Everything about their genetic make-up, from the narrative intricacies of their century-spanning storytelling to the dazzling costumes and the shrouded mystery of the members (apart from front man and band mastermind Tobias Forge, of course), if there was ever a band that was built for the big stage, it’s them. After a long time away from British shores they finally made their way back with their UK number 2 album ‘IMPERA’ in tow, their loyal followers flocking to every date of their headline arena run to worship at Papa’s feet, and we were lucky enough to head to London’s O2 Arena to witness the magic for ourselves.

Tonight wasn’t all about Ghost, though. The opening band of the night, the fantastic Twin Temple, brought a little dramatic flair of their own to the evening. I mean, you can’t perform with a band like Ghost and completely miss the opportunity to do something a little flashy, can you? Amidst their unique brand of satanic doo-wop, flooding the huge space of the O2 with their big rock licks and insatiable groove, the husband and wife duo (aww) closed things out with a blood-drinking ceremony (…aww?) and a punchy performance of ‘In Nox’. The whole thing felt like it was over before it really got started and it felt as though their show would be a lot more hypnotic and intense scaled down in a smaller venue, but this was certainly a fun and fitting way to kick off the night.

Following the devilish appetiser was some thick and fuzzy doom and gloom courtesy of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats. Picture a blend of Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath with a big injection of psychedelic goodness thrown in for good measure and you’ll be on the right page for these guys. ’70s vibes, big dirty riffs and an undeniable head-bangable groove swept through the arena, with songs like ‘Shockwave City’ and ‘Ritual Knife’ rattling the bones of everyone in earshot. This wasn’t as theatrical as the opening band, but it didn’t need to be – they played their tunes, thrashed their instruments and let the music do all the talking, they connected with the hungry onlookers really well and prepared them perfectly for the extravagant magnificence that was about to follow.

As soon as the lights dimmed for the main event, the entire width of the stage hidden by a gigantic curtain, the jam-packed O2 Arena erupted with absolute fervour in anticipation of what was about to happen. The tones of ‘Imperium’ slowly oozed from the speakers, building and building towards the grand reveal of the stained-glass decorated stage, the nameless ghouls ripping into ‘Kaisarion’ and then Papa Emeritus IV himself emerged from the shadows to begin the ritual in style. Donning a flashy blue glittery jacket and thick slicked back hair, it became immediately clear that Ghost came here to party. Luckily, so did everybody in attendance.

With the audience on an absolute high the band made sure the momentum didn’t drop for a second, tearing through rabid renditions of ‘Rats’, ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ and the stunning ‘Mary On A Cross’. The sound of the crowd screaming the lyrics back towards the stage competed with the huge sound system and every bit of energy they gave the band was being fed right back to them by the band in a never-ending loop. With an incredible catalogue of material to sift through from their illustrious and blossoming career, touching on four of their records with the opening four tracks, the entire show was like an homage to everything that got them to this stage – a big ol’ celebration of everything Ghost.

The newer songs in their set went down an absolute storm, and rightly so – ‘IMPERA’ didn’t get to number 2 in the UK album charts by accident. The Bon Jovi-esque ‘Spillways’, the haunting epic ‘Call Me Little Sunshine’ and the magnificent Halloween theme song ‘Hunter’s Moon’ all beckoned deafening singalongs from the crowd, all delivered with absolute precision and effortless showmanship. It was surprising that more new material didn’t make it into the setlist but that’s not a bad thing – Ghost had a lot of lost time to make up for, so why not take a little time to wander through some of their highlights?

The ‘Meliora’ and ‘Prequelle’ albums are where the set spent most of its time, and the atmosphere every time they unleashed one of their songs was electric. The nameless ghoul shred-off that followed ‘Devil Church’ had the attending masses responding in an almost pantomime fashion to what they saw unfolding on stage, as did ‘Miasma’ where we saw a deceased Papa Nihil repeatedly shocked with a defibrillator and brought back to life to briefly play the solo before being returned to his coffin. The ominous ‘Cirice’, the reverent ‘He Is’, the towering ‘Faith’, every single swing they took was a home run.

Everywhere else that they wandered through their career was equally as spectacular. Visiting ‘Infestissumam’ to perform ‘Year Zero’ flooded the arena with the satanic aura that brought the band so much controversy in their earlier days, and it was the moment that felt the closest to a satantic ritual of the entire evening. There were also stops at ‘Seven Inches Of Satanic Panic’ in the form of ‘Kiss The Go-Goat’ and ‘Opus Eponymous’ in the form of ‘Ritual’ but the show stealers were in the epic encore finale. The one-two punch of the anthemic ‘Dance Macabre’ immediately followed by a storming and relentless performance of ‘Square Hammer’ that capped off the night perfectly and – after one last burst of confetti, pyrotechnics and fireworks – we finally had a chance to regain our breath.

To put it simply, Ghost absolutely commanded and conquered London tonight. With everything from flashy guitar duels and ‘Enter Sandman’ covers to various costume changes and a reanimated mummy zombie ripping a saxophone solo, there wasn’t a single dull moment to their presence on stage. With the gigantic churchly backdrop looming over the venue it was like attending a sermon, and the thousands of attendees were more than ready to collect their communion. Papa was genuinely moved and thankful to be back on stage and the words of gratitude that he gave to the gathered masses prompted swathes of applause and appreciative cheers. Their 20 songs rocketed by far too quickly but one thing was for sure – everybody left knowing that they’d witnessed something special. Was it a party? Was it a sacrificial offering of some kind? Was it both? Whatever it was or however you want to frame it, one thing is for certain – it was incredible. Bravo Ghost, long may you reign.