Words – Clare
Photos – Mitch

As we all waited in the cold on Wednesday night, patrons lined up around the block at John Cain Arena, and we realised there must be something holding up the process. Unfortunately, due to production delays, the Melbourne crowd would not only miss out on seeing the support act ‘Southeast Desert Metal’ who describe themselves as the ‘the most isolated heavy metal band in the world!’ but we would also experience delays getting into the venue and delays on the performance time of the main event, Ghost. I have to hand it to the Ghost congregation though, not only do they dress to the nines in costumes and painted faces but there didn’t seem to be any disgruntled fans, no one kicked up a fuss when the stormy clouds finally released rain, no one complained when the seemingly infinite lines outside came to a halt. Everyone was super chill and just so stoked to be seeing Ghost perform in what was their first headlining tour in Australia, and what a show it was!

Finally, we were all ushered in out of the cold and the stage was set and the arena was full. A large white curtain hung from the rafters obscuring our view of the stage while haunting church-style interlude music played. A spotlight shone on the curtain highlighting a lone silhouette. The curtain dropped and the arena awakened with the booming sounds of applause and the even larger sound of pyrotechnics which lit up the stage. We saw a grand backdrop of gothic cathedral arches filled with projections of colourful stained-glass windows of all the Ghost‘s holy figures. Raised platforms of differing heights were offered for each of the Nameless Ghouls with the drum set atop a staircase in the centre of the stage. It looked amazing and well worth the wait.


Frontman Papa Emeritus IV offered us boundless energy that never wavered as he sauntered around the stage while performing costume change after costume change and all the while making meaningful connections with every individual in attendance. It had been a while since I experienced such a charismatic and charming frontman and I now understand why his fans are so impossibly loyal. It was a monstrous set with an arrangement of 19 tracks from various albums in their discography, ranging from the 2010 release ‘Opus Eponymous’ to last year’s ‘Impera’. From the 2022 album release, they began with ‘Kaisarion’ which was coupled with an impossibly shiny silver jacket, smoke blasts from the stage floor and a blood-red stream of light that swallowed the sea of fans. For the intro to the track ‘Cirice’ from their 2015 studio album ‘Meliora’ Papa Emeritus appeared at the top of the staircase adorned with bat wings. This song was used to generate applause for each of the Ghouls as Papa moved from the guitarist to the keyboardist, directing the crowd to clap for each. For ‘Absolution’, we were again gifted with a terrifying pyrotechnic pop which I never was ready for, they gave me jump scares every single time! Papa also took this opportunity to get up close and personal with his congregation in the front row. He got down low and came face to face with glowing fans who mirrored his vocals back to him. ‘Ritual’ from ‘Opus Eponymous’ had a huge finish with wailing guitar solos and a cute skit between the ghoulish guitarists that created a little back and forth battle but which ended in a dual crescendo. 


The next costume change was for ‘Call Me Little Sunshine’ Papa now dressed in my favourite costume for the night. The Pope in luscious blue with sparkles swung the thurible back and forth while the heavy intro for ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ played. ‘Watcher in the Sky’ was coupled with thick smoke propelled from the sky while ‘Year Zero’ received a huge roar from the crowd and dramatic pillars of smoke which were propelled from the ground. For the slow ballad of ‘He Is’ the audience instinctively held up their phone torches infesting the stands with fire flies. It was at this point of the night that the crew wheeled a covered object out to centre stage. What could it be? The cloak was pulled away to reveal a glass coffin with red velvet lining which housed Papa Nihil but he wasn’t moving. A crew member made a firmly clenched fist and started to resuscitate him and with each precordial thump a pyrotechnic device sparked from the coffin. He was alive… alive! Papa Nihil gave us a brief saxophone solo before crashing back into the coffin to be wheeled back off stage.


Vocalist Papa returned to the stage again for ‘Miasma’ and ‘Mary on a Cross’ and for ‘Mummy Dust’ we got another jump scare from the pyrotechnics and a canon that expelled clouds of white confetti that filled the airspace of the arena. Papa addressed the legions of fans ‘did you feel that?’ The crowd cheered. ‘Where did you feel that?’ An answer to his question raised up from the pit ‘Your tits?’ He laughed. ‘You should rejoice that we’ve had a wonderful evening together’. The set was completed with ‘Respite on the Spitalfields’ which we were told was the last track of the set. But of course we all played along with the game, we stomped our feet and raised our voices until ‘Ghost’ would join us back on stage. Papa wandered back out wearing what he referred to as his ‘after show jacket’. We made a deal with this devil in sparky blue and would ‘rock really hard’ for him to change his ‘after show jacket’ into his ‘encore jacket’ and we negotiated for 3 more songs which we all knew were coming even before this adorable charade began. Okay, 3 more songs ‘just as long as you fuck off afterwards!’, he jested. The phenomenal night of a rock opera style performance came to a close with ‘Kiss the Go-Goat’ from their two track EP released in 2019 ‘Seven Inches of Satanic Panic’, ‘Dance Macabre’ which unleashed another canon loaded with multi coloured confetti, and a fan favourite track from ‘Popestar’ released in 2016 ‘Square Hammer’. The final song for the night featured the final jacket, a shiny red number and one more heart attack inducing pyro pop. What a perfect way to begin the spookiest month of the year.


Thanks to the John Cain Arena crew for having us and a special thanks to Dallas Does PR for arranging access.