On Saturday, May 17, I went to Time Square's Best Buy Theater to see a band that’s been building a lot of hype in its six years of existence: Ghost (known as Ghost B.C. in the U.S.) Originating in Linköping, Sweden, the band has attracted attention for both its music and image. They blend heavy metal, doom metal and rock including hard, blues, psychedelic and progressive to achieve a cross-generational appeal. They’ve got a very distinct stage presence as well, shrouded in secrecy. All of the instrumentalists wear black cloaks and masks, anonymously referred to as “Nameless Ghouls,” while the lead singer known as “Papa Emeritus II” wears skull makeup and a black pop outfit. They may appear menacing, but the band says that their themes are “tongue-in-cheek,” so it’s primarily for the sake of art and theatrics.
The opening act was the Seattle-based King Dude, consisting of singer-guitarist TJ Cowgill backed with a bassist and drummer for live shows. It was unexpected to say the least, as it dark music was essentially Southwestern-style folk/blues with subtle hints of metal. Some people really liked it, but a few annoying people near me heckled it (they were kind of far away and got ignored.) Personally, I wasn’t really fond of it, but at least some people liked it.
Ghost began as eerily and mysteriously as I expected, preceded with recordings of both chorale music and Jocelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball,” which was featured in Eyes Wide Shut. The band began rocking with "Infestissumam"; the opening song from the titular sophomore album last year. The rest of their setlist was a mix of songs from both of their full-lengths (seven from each) and two covers: The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” (somehow managing to be both shadowy and uplifting) and Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts,” which made it to the band’s If You Have Ghost EP late last year. The show was really enjoyable overall, fulfilling its entertaining, lightheartedly ominous mood with both expert musicianship and Papa Emeritus II’s persona, reminding me of Count Dracula. The participatory concluding song "Monstrance Clock" helped bring a sense of unity to all, asking the audience to "come together as one."