Ghost – Helsinki, Finland 28.11.2019

Ghost played sold out Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on 28.11.2019 as an additional show to their “The Ultimate Tour Named Death” tour accompanied by fellow Swedish melodic death metallers Tribulation and American All Them Witches.

The entire night was a bit of a mix of music and experiences. Tribulation brought the metal, mysticism and heaviness,  All Them Witches brought more chill, groovy jam session-like rock and roll vibes, and Ghost brought it all together as well wrapped up in an eccentric spectacle of a performance.

Ghost’s set began with the curtain drawn, covering the stage, though you could see large shapes and shiny things
behind it. The opening tracks were a bit odd, some twisted rendition of “Ring Around the Rosie”, but as the night went on, it seemed to play more and more into this idea of the entire night being dedicated to corruption and sin, or some commercialized version of it.

The thing that stuck out most to me was how Cardinal Copia (Tobias Forge) changed his character and stage presence with his costume. Sometimes he was more like an old timey gangster- cheeky and sly, others he was like an old man, like when he was dressed as the Cardinal, stoic and slow moving. It was a shame they didn’t let the photographers shoot the entire show, since there were multiple costume changes. I was a bit confused about the strange accent he spoke in at first but then realized it was part of the performance, and the character he was portraying at the moment.  His interaction with the audience was also quite entertaining. Not only did he interact as if he was in an intimate club gig rather than a sold out stadium, his dialogue with the audience was quite different than what (at least I) would expect from a rock/metal gig. He joked and poked fun and even argued a little. “This is not funny,” he scolded when the audience cheered at something he had said, “This is serious stuff, This. Is. Sin!” he exclaimed. At times he seemed nonchalant and indifferent, maybe even bored, other times he was intent on getting the crowd riled up, and seemed really into the music.

Another interesting aspect was the Nameless Ghouls and how they, and Cardinal Copia did (and did not) seem to have a cohesive stage presence, and how the performance part of it played in. The spotlights directed the audience on who to pay attention to. “Well yeah, thats what they’re meant to do.” might be what you’re thinking, but in this sense, it seemed the audiences attention was not meant to be distributed equally or evenly. Most of the time, the attention was on Cardinal Copia, you could barely even see the Nameless Ghouls  that were stuck at the top of the stair structures most of the show. The only times the Namelss Ghouls were brought to your attention was when Cardinal Copia was off stage.

There were times where Cardinal Copia did interact with the Nameless Ghouls, and only then, you were reminded of the fact that there were five or six other members on stage. It was those moments also, that made it feel like a real gig. Through out the show, I felt there was something lacking, that their energy was not up to expectation, or they weren’t utilizing the stage and stage setup as much as they could. The stage itself was set to look like a church, white steps as wide as the stage led up to where the drums, bass and keys were set up. And continued behind that (which I didn’t even realize until I went back and looked through photos, since no one really went back there. The backdrop meant to look like stained glass with images of Ghost‘s previous members and imagery (to me it was reminiscent of the only other time I had been to this arena, to see Iron Maiden on the Legacy of the Beast tour). There was some pyro, smoke and confetti but it was sporadic and unmemorable. It had a more theatrical aire to it rather than a rock show, much of the time. However, when they played older songs and a few newer ones, specifically “Kiss the Go-Goat” and “Dance Macabre” and interacted with each other, I was reminded I was at a rock/metal show, not a play. Those songs were played towards the end, and it took that long for people in the seated areas to finally stand up and move and dance.

All in all, it was less and more than I expected. I’m used to smaller gigs with less mainstream music, so I had to adjust my expectations for a more pop-level spectacle, which I didn’t realize until a few songs in. Tribulation and All Them Witches put on solid gig-type performances,  while Ghost was a bit more eccentric, more about the spectacle and character performance than the music but I guess,   with how easily the musicians disappear without identities and how  Cardinal Copia  (or whoever the character of the vocalist at the moment is) being the main focus of the band, it is to be expected.

Mary on a Cross
Devil Church
Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Satan Prayer
Year Zero
He Is
Mummy Dust
Kiss the Go-Goat
Dance Macabre
Square Hammer

Photos and review by Serena Solomon