Swedish metal band, Ghost, thrilled fans with Saturday night’s performance at the Riviera Theatre. Ghost, a band known for their theatrics, heavy sound, and controversial lyrics, has acquired a cult-like following over the years, and after seeing them live, it all makes sense to me.
Prior to taking the stage, the room was filled with the pungent smell of incense. When combined with the choral hymns and mock-stained glass backdrop, it was not hard to imagine that the theatre had been transformed into a Catholic church. Looking around I saw painted faces, Ghost t-shirts, and females dressed as demonic nuns. Dedicated fans in the front row had driven hours to see Ghost play in Chicago, and some were planning on seeing them again in St. Louis. To say this fanbase is passionate about Ghost and their music is a tremendous understatement.
A little after 9:00pm, the Nameless Ghouls entered the stage and kicked things off with Spirit, the first song off of their new album. You could almost feel the electricity in the air as everyone awaited the arrival of Papa Emeritus III. As he emerged from the smoky stage, the place erupted with wild excitement. With a skull mask and clad in his bishop’s hat with an inverted cross and the robes to match it, Papa Emeritus swept across the stage with fluid movements that kept the fans’ attention.
Even with their sacrilege lyrics and sinister sound, the band still kept things light and fun between songs. Although Papa Emeritus was the only one who spoke to the fans, the Nameless Ghouls put on a lively performance that kept fans on their toes. Papa Emeritus turned out to be quite the silly guy. He made a lot of jokes between songs that had the crowd laughing and having a good time. Towards the end of the show, he asked if everyone was over 18, and when he found out we were, he paused and said, “Fuck yeah,” nonchalantly.
Papa Emeritus III and his Nameless Ghouls executed a flawless show. Not only did everything sound spotless and sharp, but the live versions translated into a more powerful sound than their recorded counterparts. Papa Emeritus disappeared briefly during Devil Church only to reappear during Cirice without his Pope gear. While still donning his skull mask, he was looking quite dapper in clothes more similar to those of the Nameless Ghouls. Ghost played hit after hit from their albums, and treated fans to an acoustic version of Jigolo Har Megiddo to change things up and slow things down a bit. Crooning his wicked lyrics to the acoustic guitars, the song managed to sound like a sweet love song. A keytar made a brief appearance during Mummy Dust, which was completely unexpected, but delightful nonetheless.
This show was fantastic. After selling out the Riviera Theatre, I would expect them to play a bigger venue next time they come through. Let’s hope that’s not too far in the future!
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Review and photos by Abby Walter