On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the Broadmoor World Arena
hosted local rock radio station 94.3 KILO
’s fifth annual Fall Brawl concert, this year featuring Swedish band Ghost as headliners and Texas band Nothing More supporting. It was a stop on Ghost’s nation-spanning Ultimate Tour Named Death, for which the Indy spoke to them
, and that’s more than enough with the logistical details, because the Indy
sent me to photograph the show, and it was wicked cool.
Nothing More opened the show up with a bang, with singer Jonny Hawkins standing atop a scrap metal ladder and cranking an air raid siren as the band broke into their 2018 single “Let It Burn.” His torso half-painted black, Hawkins bounded across the stage, an energetic and engaging performer, his vocals backed by guitarist Mark Vollelunga and bassist Daniel Oliver. KILO listeners will no doubt be excited to know that Hawkins announced plans to record and release an acoustic version of their song “Fadein/Fadeout” soon.
While the music was solid and engaging, I really dug their stage setup — Hawkins, previously the band’s drummer, added percussion on a kit bedecked with gears and rusty diamond mesh. At one point, he, Oliver and Vollelunga jammed a contraption into it to hold a bass and soloed on it collaboratively. At the end of the set, the percussion kit flipped onto its front, and Hawkins stood high atop it, playing a precarious-looking instrument dubbed the Scorpion Tail, which looks like That 1 Guy’s magic pipe
as built by the warboys from Mad Max: Fury Road
. They used it to cover Skrillex.
Sweden's Ghost performed at the Broadmoor World Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
And then, there was Ghost. I’ll cop to it; this is the third time I’ve seen Ghost live. By all accounts, they’ve changed up their live setup, dialing back the aggressively occult/Satanic shtick as they’ve grown in popularity. Early albums leaned on the Satan thing pretty hard, but their most recent full-length album, Prequelle
, shifted from lyrics about human sacrifice and carnal knowledge of the antichrist to metaphors about the black plague. Mainman Tobias Forge’s recent litigious misadventures with his now-former backing band of Nameless Ghouls coincided a change in the live show, too. Their faux-Cathedral setup now shows not images of Satan, but past incarnations of his Papa Emeritus persona, the skeletal pope character Forge played for the band’s first three albums.
But the fires of hell still burn for these ghouls, led by Forge in his newest persona, Cardinal Copia. They’ve always had a knack for the theatrical, and the new band — Forge plus seven instead of just five — sounds just as tight and bigger than Ghost has before. Adding an additional keyboardist and guitarist who also do vocal harmonies has let Forge sing in lower registers, where he’s more powerful and more comfortable, which is especially apparent on older tracks like “Ritual.”
The Ghouls also show more presence and personality onstage, with the lead and rhythm guitarists playing virtuoso and goofball during a solo-off and other elements of the show. During Prequelle
(2017) instrumental “Miasma,” a guest musician dressed as glowing-eyed methuselah Papa Nihil was walked to center stage for a ripping saxophone solo.
As for the elements they’ve cut back on, Forge’s banter offering to wobble the asses and tickle the taints of all present with Meliora
(2015) cut “Mummy Dust” feels puerile. In the past, he’s had a bit about how the female orgasm was once considered the work of the devil, which led into set-closer “Monstrance Clock” from 2012 album Infestissumam
, which makes the “come together for Lucifer’s son” hook stick out more. But live performances of songs from 2019’s ‘60s-inflected EP Seven Inches of Satanic Panic
, showed Ghost as sex-mad and catchy as they’ve ever been — see late-set sing-along, “Kiss the Go-Goat.” And of course, older and more overtly Satan-worshipping tracks like “Ritual,” “Satan Prayer” and “Year Zero” got the audience singing along with fervor. Key moment: pillars of flame lighting the faux-cathedral stage like the church scene in Hellraiser III
as the crowd sings “Hail Satan, archangelo,” at the top of its lungs.
Ghost’s live show is theatrical in a way few modern bands aim for, and that makes them a treasure to see live. But all the provocative, spooky, horny, Satanic theatrics mean nothing without good rock/metal songs, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve name dropped track after track in this write-up. Consider Ghost a must-see band for rock fans of all stripes, even the ones who need to say a few Hail Marys afterwards.
Check out a slideshow of photos from both awesome performers below!