While rock music is alive and well, witness the countless mid-capacity theaters with sold out shows and festivals that are drawing forty thousand plus people. But it seems as though the art of the arena show has gone by the wayside. If there is one larger than life band that was seemingly built for the grand stage, it’s Ghost. With five full length albums including their latest effort “Impera” out it is now the perfect time for Ghost to bring their larger than life presence out on the road and to your local arena. Along for the ride is Spiritbox, a rising powerhouse band out of Canada. If that wasn’t enough, In what has to be a bold move by Ghost, they decided to invite a fearsome band that could headline this tour. Yes, Grammy award winning band Mastodon would be filling out the bill.
Starting off the nights festivities was Spiritbox. With the release of “Eternal Blue,” the band’s first full length album, the buzz about them has been high. So it was no surprise that the Yuengling Center was filling up early. From the moment they opened up with the hit single “Circle With Me”, lead singer Courtney LaPlante’s tremendous vocal prowess was on display. Her unique ability to go from a guttural growl to an ethereal note with a flip of a switch left everyone in awe. With a criminally short amount of time afforded to them, they breathlessly ripped through their set that featured hit singles “Hurt You” and “Holy Roller” as well as two new songs “Rotoscope” and “Hysteria.”
SPIRITBOX Photo Gallery
While many in the audience were drawn to the show due to the headline act, for those this would be a marvelous introduction to the world of Mastodon. With a twenty year career under their collective belt there would be no shortage of material for the band to choose from, including their most recent release 2021’s “Hushed And Grim”. When the stage lights came up it revealed a stage with two levels with drummer Brann Dailor and keyboardist Joao Nogueira on the upper level and bassist Troy Sanders flanked by guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds on the lower level.
Dailor kicked things off with a flurry of intense drum work as the band leapt into “Pain With An Anchor” and he continued on taking over the singing duties while he played. The bands prog-rock roots were on full display replete with time signature changes and complex guitar interplay. As it sets the tone for “Hushed And Grim”, it also set the tone for the night’s performance. Bassist Troy Sanders took over on vocals for “Crystal Skull” while Kelliher and Hinds powerful guitar work filled the arena with a dense wall of sound. While Mastodon pounded out song after song brilliantly, they had video screens behind them playing psychedelic images as well as lasers that added to the musical journey the band was taking everyone on.
As “Hushed and Grim” is the bands newest release, nearly half of the eleven song set came from this release. “Tear Drinker” and “More Than I Can Chew” were definite highlights from the album as they truly highlighted the bands unique mix of progressive/stoner/sludge style of music. For all the fans of Mastodon they also dug deep into their catalog and treated everyone to a couple of their classic hits “Megalodon” and “Mother Puncher”. For close to an hour and a half the band put on an amazing performance that was crisp and tight without loosing an ounce of the power that their music has. For their fan base this was a show to remember and for those being introduced to them it was a performance that would be indelibly etched into their brains.
MASTODON Photo Gallery
With just enough time for the crowd to catch their collective breath, it was finally time for the satanically flavored Swedish import Ghost to close out the night. As the house lights dimmed “Miserere Mei, Deus” was pumped through the house PA giving the feeling that everyone was being sent on a trip back in time to the Spanish inquisition. As the song wound down, the curtain covering the screen dropped and a massive bang was let loose. With the stage lights coming up three of the nameless ghouls made their way to the front of the stage playing the intro to “Kaisarion”. Finally Tobias Forge made his way on stage dressed as his alter ego Papa Emeritus to the cheers of all of his disciples. Forge/Emeritus and his stage full of ghouls breathlessly played the eminently catchy song “Rats” as the arena full of fans sang along word for word.
While Ghost is Forge’s baby, and all his ghouls are hired guns hence the steampunk meets gas mask costumes that they wear. But that doesn’t mean they are merely there to back him up. He allows them to strut their stuff and during the concert they even had an incredible guitar duel. Not only did this showcase their incredible talent, but they were also able to infuse their individual personalities into the performance as well. As the ghouls wound down their solo’s, one of the ghouls started on the intro to the hit single “Cirice” and they followed it up with “Hunters Moon” which both were wildly received by everyone there.
While everyone was enjoying the music that Ghost was performing exquisitely, they also wowed everyone with an arena level performance. With a drum kit that was at the top of a multi-tier riser, elevated side stage platforms for all the band members to go on to play to the crowd on the sides, and of course a backdrop that gave the stage a cathedral like look, the setup was indeed impressive and very much worthy of an arena. While all the ghouls had their own costumes. Forge also had his. For the first part of the show he was in his latest incarnation of Papa Emeritus. But during the later parts of the concert he also surprised everyone by changing into his previous incarnations of Papa Emeritus replete with pope like hat and robes. They saved their two most popular songs for the end of the show “Dance Macabre” and “Square Hammer” and during both of them they filled the arena with Confetti.
For several hours this evening all three bands showed that rock music is very much as strong as ever and on its way back to being an arena staple with great music and over the top theatrical production of all the bands. From the youthful energy and promise of newcomers Spiritbox to the intense powerful performance of Mastodon these two bands opened plenty of eyes and garnered new fans. With tonight’s performance, Ghost has shown everyone that they have deservedly taken the giant step up to an arena level act.