While there is always a special energy in the air when the band legally known as Ghost B.C. makes an appearance in Los Angeles, the energy along the historic ‘Miracle Mile’ stretch of Wilshire Boulevard was a lot more manic upon the 15th night of April, 2013. With a world going crazy analyzing a grainy image of a hooded man upon a Boston rooftop, nearly 800 hard rock and heavy metal fans packed the El Rey Theatre to worship five hooded ghouls in masks led by the one known as Papa Emeritus II.
The night kicked off with an absolutely atrocious opening set from Ides of Gemini. Doom metal can be hit and miss and in the case of this three piece band from Southern California, they are a miss. To call the thirty minute set painful would be a massive understatement. Drummer Kelly Johnston’s lack of rhythm and energy made Meg White look like John Bonham. Guitarist Jason Bennett earns the gold star for managing to play all of about five different notes in the half hour allotted upon stage. Bassist/vocalist Sera Timms managed to play less notes than Bennett while hacking out vocals that sounded like Ursula from The Little Mermaid with a chest cold. While some politely applauded between songs, most got lost in their cell phones or headed back to the bar in hopes of escaping the audio punishment of Ides of Gemini.
With several famous faces amongst the sold out crowd, Ghost took to the stage for their second headline appearance in Los Angeles just before 10pm. On the eve of their second full length release Infestissumam hitting store shelves, the band embarked on a 75 minute set that drew heavily from their debut album while virtually ignoring album tracks from their latest effort.
Having received a hero’s welcome during the pre-recorded opening before launching into Infestissumam/Per Aspera ad Inferi, the band wasted no time getting down to business. Yet new material was to be brief as the band then focused on launching into three cuts from their full length debut Opus Eponymous. With most fans sporting t-shirts of the band, Papa Emeritus II slowly slithered across the stage as the crowd managed to almost drown out his vocals on early classics like Prime Mover and Elizabeth. In fact it wasn’t until the fourth song that Ghost once again played a song from their new album. That song just so happened to be a righteous take on Secular Haze. The performance confirmed what many fans discussed in the hours before the band took the stage. While Infestissumam may not be up to par with its predecessor as far as an album goes, the material indeed translates better in a live setting.
With Secular Haze in the rear view, Papa Emeritus II led the band back into their catalog with another triple shot of satanic goodness from Opus Eponymous. Stand By Him, Death Knell and Satan Prayer all managed to move the audience both physically and spiritually despite the fact we were all packed in rather right. While it was very difficult to understand what Papa Emeritus II was saying during his limited stage banter, I believe he mentioned that the second song performed from Infestissuman, Depth of Satan’s Eyes, was making its live debut. Where all performances and footage I have seen of Ghost live has featured a band that is a well-oiled machine, it was interesting to witness the band struggle to perform the new number. Yes Ghost made it through the song without a massive train wreck, but you could tell there are still a few kinks to work out. In a year we will look back at this moment and once again me in awe at how far the band has come.
Unable to perform Genesis due to time constraints (it was on the setlist), the entire band with the exception of the keyboardist left the stage as an eerie organ melody rang out across the congregation. Once they returned, they went head first into a powerful version of Year Zero. This may truly be the best song in the Ghost repertoire as its performance on this particular night was the highlight of the set. With the crystal clear instructions that the band only had one more song, Ghost closed out their set with a hard hitting performance of Ritual before leaving exiting the stage to thunderous applause.
While many fans kept their fingers crossed that Dave Grohl would leave his comfortable spot in the balcony to join the band for a little Abba action, instead we were treated to some much needed spiritual healing courtesy of Monstrance. While the El Rey Theatre always plays a pre-recorded message to report suspicious activity, the pre-show warning seemed all so much more appropriate given the day’s event. Where there were no doubt numerous members of various religions gathering yesterday to pray for the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, the lyrics of Monstrance took on a new meaning on this particular night as Papa Emeritus II sang Come Together For Lucifer’s Son. While the root of the song may be a silly tongue-in-cheek tribute to evil, the massive call to Come Together was the first step in a long and lengthy healing process this nation must once again endure. There is no doubt that music heals, and as fans flooded out of the doors and back onto Wilshire Boulevard, we all felt a little bit closer after some serious spiritual healing from Papa Emeritus II and his Nameless Ghouls.