Swedish rockers Ghost pulled into the Coca Cola Coliseum in Toronto for one of the last few dates of the band’s current 2022 North American Imperatour on September 17 with guests Mastodon and Spiritbox. As expected, there was much pomp and pageantry as Papa Emeritus IV celebrated the release of the band’s latest album Impera with a sold-out ritual.
A Ghost show isn’t really just a rock concert, its much like a religious ceremonial event, filled with glamorous costumes, religious-like rites and mass singalongs; except this ritual isn’t for the glory of God, it’s more of a blasphemous passage to rock your ass off.
For those that haven’t attended a Ghost concert, the band is led by its colourful leader Papa Emeritus IV (performed by founder Tobias Forge), who dresses in a series of different outfits, ranging from jacket and tails to a full pope-like gown complete with a waiving thurible. He’s accompanied by a killer band of nameless and faceless musicians known as The Nameless Ghouls. The ghouls keep growing in numbers, now adding backup singers to the lineup, giving the band a very full and exciting concert sound.
It was actually surprising to see the band perform at the Coca Cola Coliseum because the venue sold out quickly and could have easily been upgraded. In fact, it was smaller than their last appearance in the area at a packed FirstOntario Centre in 2019 when Papa Emeritus IV was just a lowly cardinal.
You see, Ghost is the perfect parody to religion – it’s parallels are so precise and blatant. It’s much like an anti-religion religious experience – and that’s what makes the band so popular.
Aside from its new leading Papa character, the ghouls have exciting new costumes this tour, looking like Steampunk inspired gasmasks with jodphurs, jackboots, epaulets, half-caped jackets and nods to military regalia from WWI and WW2. Their eyes also have red laser dots for that extra creepy added touch.
The costumes and the stage itself are centered around the Impera theme of fallen empires of the past. To hit the nail on the head, the band used its lead off track as their opening music and performed six songs from the album. For the Canadian leg of the tour, the band added in the new single Spillways.
The rest of the show was dominated by fan favourites from previous albums Meloria, Prequelle and Opus Eponymous, but they surprisingly only performed one track from the 2013 sophomore album Infestissumam (Year Zero), deciding to leave out Monstrance Clock and Secular Haze, which they performed on the last tour in 2019. Monstrance Clock was a disappointment because that was one of the initial songs that lured me into being a follower.
The Coliseum wasn’t a great sounding venue, but it was obvious that Ghost was in top form, with Papa Emeritus IV sounded better than ever. The new looks, lasers, flash pods, flames and smoke all added-up to an incredible concert experience. Fans will mark this show in similar ways that I treasure the time I saw Motley Crüe at the Coliseum on the Shout At The Devi Tour in 1984.
Support act Mastodon is an extremely heavy band that’s been around for more than 20 years and hasn’t been in Toronto since 2017, so this was a golden opportunity to catch them supporting their latest album Hushed and Grim, a double album released about a year ago. The lights were very dim and the sound was extremely loud, but those that knew them where there in force. It was an 11-song set with nearly half of it coming from the last album. Hardcore fans got Mother Puncher, a track at the very end of the show from the debut album, Remission.
Openers, newer Victoria, BC band Spiritbox were quite impressive. Lead by aggressive and highly entertaining lead vocalist Courtney LaPlante, this is a band to watch for. Their music is hard and antagonistic, but also very accessible at the same time. Depending on the music they start to make going forward, they could easily be direct competition to fan favourites like Pretty Reckless, Arch Enemy or even In This Moment. At times, LaPlante reminded me of Maria Brink without the stage props and big shows. Spiritbox sounded great, but were lit with dark colours and minimal lights, so it was hard to see the incredible effort LaPlante and the three other band members were putting out. Let’s hope Spiritbox does more shows on the Eastern side of the country soon.
Ghost with Mastodon and Spiritbox
Coca Cola Coliseum
September 17, 2022
All Photos by Dan Savoie