October 5th might be a tad early to get into full Halloween mode, but don’t tell that to the Ghost faithful that packed the Minneapolis Armory on Saturday night for the 93x Haunting Featuring Ghost. Temporary police no “No Parking” signs lined the streets, on this eve of the Twin Cities Marathon, on the way to the renovated historic building near US Bank Stadium. Incredibly long entrance lines wrapped around both sides of the Armory continuing for several city blocks. The majority of tonight’s attendees would not make it inside in time for the opening set by Nothing More, with the wait in line over an hour. In the end, the suffering would be rewarded with an over two hour, incredible performance by Ghost.
I was just happy I made it inside to catch at least the final song by Nothing More. I really wanted a chance to see The Scorpion Tail that singer Jonny Hawkins rides and plays. That’s what they call the contraption which was designed by bassist Daniel Oliver and built using an automotive spring and other scrap metal and car parts. Hawkins stands atop its platform and can kick pedals for bass and snare drums it houses. He also cranks several levers to control his vocals as well as the band’s instrument leads. Their cover of Skrillex’ “First of the Year (Equinox)” was the perfect playground for Hawkins to show off the features of this giant toy. Quite cool. Still riding The Scorpion Tail, Hawkins and the band got the crowd involved and clapping along to a brief segment of “We Will Rock You” then thanked the crowd. I only wished I could have made it into the Armory earlier to see more of their show and their hit “Go to War.”
Swedish frontman Tobias Forge is now performing as “Cardinal Copia” on their Ultimate Tour Named Death, after retiring all three Papas, I, II, and III. This trio was prominently honored on the three large stained glass windows comprising the backdrop. In front of this, a medieval cathedral them featured a set of seven stairs that the band would maneuver upon. Scanning the crowd, it appeared about five percent had got into the spirit by donning some type of eerie costume or face paint for the show. And the Armory was now stuffed to the gills. Fortunately, the half hour stage changeover provided enough time for most in those long lines to enter.
Just like their most recent album, Prequel, their spin on “Ring Around the Rosie”, “Ashes”, fed into “Rats” to start things off. This first single from the current album quickly got the fans involved as the Cardinal urged the crowd to sing, “Rats, Rats, Rats” and “Rats, Whoah”. Ghost, of course, is known for their theatrical rock shows centered around satanic ritual. “Absolution” had fans holding up their hands to the Cardinal like mindless followers, and their popular “Faith” with had fans singing along again to “I am all eyes, I am all ears, I am the wall, and I’m watching you fall.” But we also heard some new “old songs”, “Mary on a Cross” and later “Kiss the Go-Goat”, that Forge told us Papa Nihil sang in the original Ghost band in 1969 and they are now celebrating the 50th anniversary.
The Nameless Ghouls, are the band members supporting Forge. With three guitarists, a bassist, drummer and two keyboardists, they now total seven. They wear matching black suits and metallic masks for their costumed performances. The Nameless guitarists were featured as they competed against each other with one needing some coaxing. “Cirice” was one of the band’s first radio hits and was clearly a favorite of the crowd tonight. But the middle of the set covered deeper tracks, primarily from their second and third albums, Infestissumam and Meliora, that were targeted for the more devout Ghost fans. During this segment, Forge’s Cardinal Copia changed costume several times from the red suit he began with. After briefly appearing as a Papa to play tenor sax to finish off the instrumental “Miasma” he reappeared on a squeaky antique tricycle, now wearing bright white suit. He would later wear all-black with a short Dracula cape and then a black gown and cardinal hat. This man that never wanted to be the singer of Ghost is now quite the showman. His voice is simple, yet effective; an Everyman crooner. And he adeptly converses with the crowd.
After “He Is” received loud applause, Forge asked, “Minnesota, do you feel better than you did two hours ago? Me too. Do you like songs like that? Should we scrap the rest of our set list and just play ballads?” Instead, he told us they had a song that was so heavy it would “wobble our asses” and “tickle our taints”. That heavy song was “Mummy Dust” and it included a handheld keyboard solo and confetti blasts from four cannons. As a follow up Forge asked, “What an awful mess. How did you like that. Did it knock your socks off. Did your asses wobble? How about your taints?” The crowd’s answers: yes, yes, yes, and yes!
I admit, I am more of mainstream rock fan, like many of my fellow 93X listeners attending the 93X Haunting. When Forge told us, “Minneapolis, you have always been so good to us, but we are about to leave you soon,” we knew there were still a couple major hits to be played. After saying they would not leave us without a good night kiss, we heard that peppy “Kiss the Go-Goat” from that two-song 50th Anniversary release titled Seven Inches of Satanic Panic. Then as Forge asked, “Do you have your dancing shoes on?,” the finale was on with “Dance Macabre” and red, white, and blue confetti blasts this time. This irresistible song did the impossible for me in equaling “Square Hammer” as my favorite song. After Forge succinctly asked, “Do you want to hear another song or just get the f… out of here?”, “Square Hammer” was the sole encore song. That breakthrough hit is the one that grabbed me with its vicious hooks and “best ever” guitar riff. Looking back, I should have taken a quick exit poll, but my guess is that these are equally awesome Ghost tunes in most fans books. That was one heck of a way to get into the spirit. Enjoy the rest of your Halloween season!
Ashes / Rats / Absolution /Faith / Mary on a Cross / Devil Church / Cirice / Miasma / Ghuleh/Zombie Queen / Helvetesfonster / Spirit / From the Pinnacle to the Pit / Ritual / Satan Prayer / Year Zero / He Is / Mummy Dust / Kiss the Go-Goat / Dance Macabre.
Encore: Square Hammer.