After celebrating Mother's Day all afternoon, the Delaware Valley showed up in force (sold out even!) to spend the night with Papa. Was sort of worried going into the Trocadero. While I've witnessed GHOST (refuse to utilize the ridiculous legal suffix required only in North America) on three previous occasions, each were festival sets, a seemingly built-to-suit timeframe for a frontman with limited mobility and a gang of anonymous henchmen, although they're infinitely more ambulatory than the trio of statues comprising IDES OF GEMINI, who opened. For that, the fans stood motionless, arms crossed, eyes focused on cell phone distractions. While the onstage identities might be masked, GWAR they are not, especially in terms of live antics. Initially pitched to metalheads, the band now transcends that, the specter (pun intended) of GHOST uniting goths, hipsters and atheistic curiosity seekers in a common purpose. What we were treated to, is a lesson in visual arts, circa the black & white or silent film era, relying on fog, dark, shadowy images and yes, eerie soundtrack.
Incense burners practically ring the stage, so against the backdrop of stained glass windows, a black robed band stroll onstage (leaving his eminence to have a grand entrance, all his own) their shiny, black plastic masks looking like an army of Darth Vader clones, as they launch into the 'Infestissumam' intro. One fan kept yelling "Al Qaeda!" The black veiled outfits apparently confused him. The corpse-painted (decaying?) Satanic Priest, under a preponderance of blue lights, slowly ambles onstage, the crook in his gloved hands topped with the band's unique G/inverted cross logo. It's the lone trappings of Like some military bigwig, he salutes the crowd or floats his arms, as if directing an invisible symphony. His black vestments are adorned with silver embroidery. At the end of green lit 'Con Aspera Ad Inferi', Papa is alone onstage, a more mobile foil than his predecessor, but remaining virtually silent, rarely interacting with the crowd (apart from the verbose 'Monstrance Clock' introduction). Under more blue lights,'Prime Mover' was dedicated to the "Ladies of Philadelphia." Cue squeals of delight. The BLUE OYSTER CULT sounding 'Elizabeth' followed, built on a simple, devilishly infectious beat. A calliope introduces 'Secular Haze', during which a few heads actually bang. Pizzicato strings and a flash of red light greets 'Body And Blood', ultimately spotlighting the guitarist in white (God forbid) light. Of course no photographers left in the pit when that happens. It's four bodies wide, across the stage for the toe-tapping 'Stand By Him', complete with an all too brief shredding guitar break, the band a collective, not prone to individualism (despite the Satanic mantra), apart from the stylish, dapperly attired headman. Despite its title, 'Death Knell' holds more in common with easy listening tonality of THE EAGLES than hellish din of SLAYER, although the omnipresent fog and fluorescent greens would be right at home, with the latter. Backlit, an otherworldly hum and pulsating red light (Hammer Horror films, anyone?) get the crowd to clap along to 'Satan Prayer', another pop song in clever disguise. Seductive! Two of the better known songs (although this congregation knew all the hymns) 'Year Zero' and 'Ritual', another nod to BOC, closed the proper set. For the encore, they began with a world premier of 'Ghuleh/Zombie Queen', under crimson lights. The sedate, piano and brushes on drums, lounge act melody is delivered in a near whisper. Eventually, it gives way to more adventurous tones, the stage flooded in blue hues, strobes and oscillating spotlights. The aforementioned 'Monstrance Clock' provides one last time to sing-along, sending everyone away happy, quite a few new converts in the flock.
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