Swedish heavy metal band, Ghost, brought their cathedral of sins to Toronto’s Sony Centre last night, in what they are calling the “A Pale Tour Named Death” in promotion of their fourth and most successful album to date, Prequelle. The anonymous gimmick act has stirred up much controversy about their devilish look, but a Ghost show feels more like a theatrical rock opera than anything else.
The shock rock band consists of frontman, Tobias Forge, now under his latest name, Cardinal Copia, and eight backing musicians, all dubbed Nameless Ghoul (and now two Ghoulettes). They opened their 150+ minute, two-set spectacle with “Rats” off the latest album. The Ghouls, dressed in all black, delivered the crunchy guitar riffs, while the lights and steam cannons blasted in all directions as the cardinal himself made his first appearance. Forge, a natural entertainer, commanded attention with his charismatic posing.
The band rocked their way through the lengthy set list, throwing out bangers like “Absolution” and “Cirice.” During the instrumental “Miasma,” Cardinal Copia left the stage, but as the song epically climaxed, we were joined by Papa Nihil, an elderly Pope looking character, who rocked a sweet sax solo before almost falling over in exhaustion.
Afterwards, Forge rejoined us (entering twice because the first time we didn’t make enough noise) for an acoustic number “Jigolo Har Megiddo.” Now dressed as a white-suited Mafioso he stated, “Now we’re at the part of the show where we go down on you… no, not that way, in instrumentation.” He teased, “But this song is filled with innuendo, it’s very dirty, you like that?” As he asked his Ghouls if they were tuned up, the three musicians played chords completely out of sync, rhythm, and tuning. To which Forge replied “Ah yes, jazz!”
The first set closed with three back-to-back songs off Prequelle, each as alluring and catchy as the next, leaving us in anticipation for the second act, which would be filled with many of the crowd-pleasing hits. The hallways of the venue were filled with fans as passionate and eccentric as the band themselves, lining up in lengthy que to spend $50 on a T-shirt. Many fans were even in costume, as nuns or one of Forge’s previous Papa Emeritus gimmicks.
The second act opened up with pleasers like “Majesty” and “Faith,” Forge claiming he knew we wanted songs with bite. After the melodic ballad, “He Is,” he admitted, “Ok, that song is more of a lick than a bite.” He then assured us the following song would be so heavy it would make our asses wobble and taints tickle. The song would be “Mummy Dust” from the 2015 album, Meliora, to which Forge took the opportunity to thrust his pelvis at every occasion.
During a cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts,” Forge took leisure in making what was one of the longest band introductions in concert history, especially for a group of musicians with no names. After telling a story about each musician, he would say “Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for… Ghoul!”
The set then closed with “Dance Macabre” and “Square Hammer,” Ghost’s two most-popular songs, back-to-back, which had everyone singing and dancing in their seats like a clergy of undead followers. The roar of applause filled the theatre as the band took a farewell bow.
Upon return for the encore, Forge told us a story, where he called the head of the Toronto council for deciding shit, and told him he was in a rock band where they will play some songs, ending with a radio banger, take a fake bow, and then come back on stage for an encore. Except instead of returning on stage, they wanted to push everyone out the front doors, onto the street, and then they want to bang every single one of us. The councillor then suggested since it’s quite cold in December, that might take a very long time. So, if they’d like to come back in the summer to do that, but for now if they could just play a song instead. Ghost agreed, but suggested we all go home and fuck each other instead. “You can think of us while you do it. We’ve already been sweating, thrusting, flirting & blowing kisses all night. I’ll be taking a very violent shower after this.”
The night ended with “Monstrance Clock,” the last song on their 2013 album, Infestissumam, and concluded with the audience chanting along with the band. This was a show from start to finish. Yes, they have a demonic appearance and cult-like following, but a Ghost show is a production and a performance, much like you would see on Broadway, except with a taint-tickling, ass-biting soundtrack.