Ruth Eckerd Hall hosts a Ghost Ritual in Clearwater

By on November 30, 2018

photo Lizzy Davis

Clearwater, Fla. — The weekend was coming to an end, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone from packing Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL, for a late Sunday evening show. People wearing ghoul masks and covered in skull-like face paint amassed around the venue, ready for an 8:00 PM showing with Swedish melodic rock/metal band Ghost.

Ruth Eckerd Hall is a relatively upscale venue with theater style seating, generally unfit for most rock bands. Ghost, however, is an exception to that rule and the curtain draped over the stage set the atmosphere perfectly. The lights dimmed promptly at 8:00 and the intro song “Ashes” echoed throughout the theater. There was no opening act on Sunday, so when the curtain opened, fans were immediately engulfed into a full two-hour headlining performance – or “ritual” – as the Ghost fans like to call it.

photo Lizzy Davis

With the curtain parted, the full-fledged stage set up was revealed. Three masked band members, known as “Nameless Ghouls,” were positioned across a huge white stone staircase with massive, cathedral style stained glass windows as a backdrop. It didn’t take long to notice the increase in the number of Nameless Ghouls in the band compared to former years. Two more Nameless Ghouls stood atop the staircase in the back left, one positioned at a microphone stand and the other at a drum kit. Opposite them on the right side of the stage were yet another pair of Ghouls, or rather, Ghoulettes, racking the total up to seven band members.

photo Lizzy Davis

Ghost’s latest studio album ‘Prequelle’ hit the stores in June this year and the current tour is in support of the release. No time was wasted diving into the new material as vocalist Cardinal Copia (recently revealed as Tobias Forge and formerly playing the roles of Papa Emeritus I, II and III) graced the stage and opened with “Rats,” the leading single off the new album. Cardinal Copia strutted across the stage commanding the center spotlight, but the Nameless Ghouls had plenty enough personality to captivate the crowd, too. Despite their full-face masks and lack of words, two Ghouls managed to have an animated and expressive guitar battle, shooing each other away and stomping their feet as if throwing a temper tantrum.

photo Lizzy Davis

Midway through the first act, Ghost played the critically acclaimed single “Cirice,” which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2016. During the song, Cardinal Copia kneeled on a riser and reached out to hold the hand of a girl in the front row, serenading her for a full verse. The memorable moments continued throughout the next song, “Miasma,” which is a powerful instrumental. A huge cloud of fog rose from the top of the staircase in the last minute of the song, hailing the entrance of a new character, Pope Nihil, who delivered an unexpected but exceptional saxophone solo.

photo Lizzy Davis

When the Cardinal returned to the stage, the crowd responded with an underwhelming cheer. The disappointment was instantly blatant across Cardinal Copia’s face and he retorted, “That’s the best you can do?!” Tossing the crowd an offended look, he offered up a chance for redemption. “Give me a big Friday night Clearwater fucking scream. Are you ready? Let’s go!” Neverminding the fact that it was Sunday and not Friday, the crowd gave a much more boisterous response. The Cardinal approved and continued the conversation, “How the fuck are you doing?! Are you getting tipsy? …Are you getting laid?” Needless to say, the crowd response crescendoed in reply to each question. Meanwhile, three of the Nameless Ghouls were seating themselves on the giant staircase in the background, accompanied by acoustic guitars. An acoustic rendition of “Jigolo Har Megiddo” was next on the playlist.

photo Lizzy Davis

Halfway through the set, we were reminded of how similar Ghost’s ritual was to a classic play. The curtain closed after “Life Eternal” and attendees were advised to take a brief intermission before the band would return for “Act 2”. Once everyone made it back to their seats, the show resumed with another full instrumental song, “Spirit”. Every instrument reverberating throughout the theater made it evident that the increase in Nameless Ghouls wasn’t without good reason. The sound was full of depth and dimension, more like you were listening to a metal symphony than just another rock band. At the conclusion of the instrumental, Cardinal Copia returned to the stage donning completely new attire, draped in red from head to toe and broke into “From the Pinnacle to the Pit.”

photo Lizzy Davis

The fourth costume change of the night came immediately after; this time the Cardinal reappeared looking more like Dracula. He was dressed in all black, with a scallop-hemmed cape not dissimilar to bat wings. Seemingly affirming the look, he concluded “Faith” by saying, “That song had a bit of a bite!” Ghost then tuned the focus back one album, playing three songs from ‘Meliora’ consecutively. “He Is” was eerily haunting in a live setting, with the two Ghoulettes playing harp-like melodies on their keyboards.

photo Lizzy Davis

Before the next song, Cardinal Copia walked to the edge of the stage to interact with the crowd personally again. “I bet you did not expect to come here tonight to hear a song that would be so gosh darn heavy… (dramatic pause…) that it would wobble your asses!” Not quite the effect most metalheads expect a song to have on the body, but the room erupted in a combination of laughter and cheering. He continued, “I bet you did not expect tonight that there would be a song so heavy that it would… (another dramatic pause…) tickle your taint!” More laughter and cheers. “Do you like to have your taints tickled, Clearwater?! Will you let me tickle it for you?!” No one seemed to object, and Ghost broke into “Mummy Dust.” One of the Ghoulettes made a special center stage appearance during the song, shredding through a keytar solo. At the apex of the song’s final chorus, four massive confetti cannon fired off and rained over the crowd. Completing the circle to make sure the song lived up to expectations, Cardinal Copia asked, “For the record, asses wobbled?” The crowd roared. “Good… Are your taints tickled?” The crowd cheered again. “Good! I felt it too. It’s always good to know that your loins are working when you are on stage,” he joked.

photo Lizzy Davis

Anyone who has seen Ghost before knows the show isn’t complete without their cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts.” Amidst the song, Cardinal Copia took an opportunity to introduce the band in full. The anonymity of the Nameless Ghouls made this a particularly humorous undertaking, with the Cardinal walking up to each individual Ghoul and proclaiming, “Ladies and gentlemen… give it up for… Ghhhoooulll!” The act got progressively more amusing as he moved from one band member to the next and by the end of it, everyone was chiming in with “Ghhhoooulll!” right on cue.

photo Lizzy Davis

The second act drew to a close on “Square Hammer” and Ghost took a curtain call bow while throwing guitar pick keepsakes to a handful of lucky audience members. The stage cleared, and the lights stayed dim, but it was evident that even after an impressively lengthy 2 hour and 30 minute long set, fans still wanted more. Cardinal Copia peeked his head out from stage left, acknowledging the unceasing calls for, “One more song!” He made a halfhearted attempt to shoo everyone away but ultimately decided to get back on stage. “Technically it’s our first time in Clearwater and we want to give Clearwater a night to remember… In order to make this song special, we want you to take matters into your own hands tonight!” No one realized quite how literally he was speaking until he continued with, “…So go home and give yourselves orgasms tonight. THAT would be a happy ending!” Ghost ended the night with “Monstrance Clock,” and that was a pleasurable enough conclusion for us!

photo Lizzy Davis

Ghost has perfected the mix of talent and humor, offering a theatrical, entertaining and yet still well performed show. Though theater shows will probably always be a peculiar setting for a rock show, the live sound is unparalleled. Ghost seems to have finally caught the public eye over the last couple years and we suspect there won’t be many more intimate shows before they’ll be taking over amphitheater stages. The North American leg of “A Pale Tour Named Death” kicked off on October 25th and will come to an end in Brooklyn, NY, on December 15th, so be sure to catch them while you still can!

photo Lizzy Davis

photo Lizzy Davis

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