We live within dystopia. Collusion between the Royal Family and the global elite is no longer something you need a tin foil hat to believe in. Politics is less a competition of policy and a battle for trust but an open challenge to who can harness digital miscommunication and get away with it. World leaders dogwhistle to fringe extremists. The rainforest is ablaze. Crisp wrappers are found in the stomachs of octopus. The hydra has risen once again, now taking the face of Lorraine Kelly. Chop one head off and another will grow. Who is the real Lorraine Kelly? Maybe we’re all Lorraine Kelly now. Last week news broke of new cases of bubonic plague in China. Few responded to the news with more concern or surprise than “peak 2019”. Everything – everything – is fucked.
But wait, tonight in north west London, there is resistance taking place as thousands and thousands of people assemble, they think, to watch a rock show. It’s lead by a man who part-resembles a used car salesman, part resembles Boycie from Only Fools and Horses; a seedy, moustachioed religious figure called Cardinal Copia – the guy (we think he’s a guy) who now fronts the melodic rock band Ghost whereupon a succession of demonic priests named Papa once proceeded him. Copia grunts and he thrusts. There is a sexual sizzle to his every sashay. There will be many people going home tonight with many strange feelings awoken in them. And as these people return to their daily lives – to the dystopia. To the shit. They will leave having been given a masterclass in how to live. As a band from Bristol recently opined, “joy is an act of resistance…”
Ghost are the best rock band on the planet right now. Rock, we mean, in the classical sense. For all the hipster cool that ushered them in via underground metal origins, at this juncture Ghost are, in essence, a stadium rock band – one now on the cusp of playing actual stadiums, their opening for Metallica across Europe earlier this year not only served to raise the game of the thrash titans following them, but undoubtably swelled the openers confidence. They have big songs, with big guitars and big keyboards and big ideas about how to present them. Much of their show is akin to The Rocky Horror Picture Show being given the best slot on Broadway; there are costume changes, extras in plague doctor masks, at one point the Cardinal rides across the stage on a tiny, Jigsaw-esque tricycle and during the cosmic jams of ‘Miasma’ an elderly, shuffling, decaying zombie pope – named Papa Nihil – is lead to the stage wearing aviator shades to play the songs saxophone solo… before collapsing.
It’s hard not to look on and think of KISS in their prime; the KISS that wanted to take the world’s best rock show out every night; the KISS that wanted you to look at the musicians onstage, not as men, but as superheroes; the KISS who have endured until the present day thanks to an understanding that this stuff is supposed to feel like your first kiss, your first crush, the first great night of the rest of your life. As the Cardinal and the ‘Nameless Ghouls’ who back him crash into the spooky new wave pop of ‘Rats’, then into the yearning, anthemic ‘Cirice’ (which still sounds a bit like what you imagine John Carpenter conducting Megadeth might do), into old faithful ‘Year Zero’ – which is, almost certainly, the first time Latin words have been spoken in this famous venue, there is nobody in this room who isn’t thinking they’re watching your favourite rock festivals next new headline band. Yes, the Cardinal is performing – preaching? – to thousands of people, but there’s a personal communion taking place between he and anyone who makes contact with his one good eye. It wouldn’t be surprising if much of the crowd left feeling like they were part of the band too.
And so, as the Cardinal and the Ghouls take their applause atop a bed of Emmylou Harris’ ‘Sorrow In The Wind’ playing through the PA, we venture once more into the dystopia. The shit. Into a world haunted by a thousand sneering Loraine Kelly’s. But we do so emboldened. Recalibrated. Reminded of what we can be. This is the power of rock music. This is the power of the rock band Ghost.
Mary on a Cross
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Kiss the Go-Goat