Ghost, Witchgrinder, Hi-Fi Bar and Ballroom, Melbourne 23/01/2014

We had Ghost and we had everything.

Theatre is rock n’ roll’s brother. They grew up together. Occasionally they part, but never long enough to see rock n’ roll fidget and sob. Alice Cooper. Iron Maiden. Ghost. These are their sons. And we love them.

First off, who in the arse are Witchgrinder? They felt pre-fab even for pre-fab goth n’ glammers. Jet-black and arse length hair overtook their singer. If his black jeans were any skinnier, he could use it as an E string. I’ll let you decide which one. A Bald battle jacket won most of the bread for Witchgrinder, cooking up enough chops to feed a carnivore’s army. Could we hear him, though? In between muffled drum thuds. BOOM – out falls a scrap of vocal. BOOM – half a lick slips through. BOOM – we’ve given up on this band, where’s the pub? It sounded like we were all standing outside. Singer: “What a fuckin’ shredder!,” and points to Baldy. And nary was a note heard.

Me? My chief concern was a stinging little burn on the tip of my tongue.

Ghost is a metal band. I have a Nameless Ghoul on tape proving as such. Theirs is a particular honey that draws the punters. Yeah, we see the leather and black tee-shirt set. It’s a given. They mix it up alongside hardcore punx and of course, the cardigan and coal miners’ cap wearing variety of hipster. Were these Downton Abbey escapees? They’re finally free! Free at last!

Most had Ghost gear on their back. What you could sell, though, were metre square parcels of the Hi-Fi Bar. A horizon stretched with eager faces. Bring a friend to bring the beer. You’ll need him.

Fog swirled up over the mass. Soon, they piped in babbling baroque cantatas. The hymns before the ritual. Blue and yellow rose. Heavenly voices circled above us. Then, black. Applause. Ghost.

Three Nameless Ghouls took up positions as a voice strong and low induced the incantation. Dip to black. Papa Emeritus approached, standing proud and vestments gleaming through murk. Robes upon robes, emblazoned with the Ghostly cross. No humanity to his face. Melbourne's ritual had begun!

Infestissumam opened like thunder, like lightning. Papa addressed the crowd with a serpent’s embrace. Papa’s presence pressed into us. It felt as if each wave of his gloved palm reached out and touched us. It did, in its own way.

Papa pulled invisible strings on the Ghouls, possessed and kicking ground in frenzy. It was if Metallica’s song finally saw form. Master of puppets, pulling the strings. Twisting our minds. Our dreams, spared. We saw them here, real and on stage. Effortless solos streamed forth from the Ghouls in long black and masks, through hymnal Per Aspera ad Inferi.

Prior to Con Clavi Con Dio, Papa blessed the wretched and the divine. The men and the women. The weak and the strong. The boilermakers and the graphic designers. The punx, the metalheads and even Mr. Cap n’ Cardigan. The pious, the unbelievers, the devil himself. With crimson wings unfurled he could doom the Earth. He may just as well have.

The cry of a baby rang out. Then, Ritual. Horns pumped back and forth in praise of our master.  By now, Papa could play with us like toys. The Ghostly conclave nothing left to chance. This was theatre that flashed no flashpods, Eddied no Eddies. Up back, drapery stained glass windows. Up front, bare stage. Costumes didn’t alter the appearance of Ghost, that was Ghost. The vestments, the tassles, the Alphas and Omegas, all Ghost. The beginning and the end of Ghost was right there before us. We needed nothing else.

Papa commanded us with a sweep of his hand. The swagger and stomp of Prime Mover saw Papa swat at notes to make way for new bits of sound. Compelling.  Papa drenched blue as Ghouls cloistered a trinity around him.

A rally for our horns and cries and Here Comes the Sun. A winding up of the devil’s carnival, Secular Haze. Year Zero picked up a head of steam and Papa fell back into the fog and murk. Only Papa Emeritus could whip crowds into ecstacy with the mere gesture of his arm. Could any other artist do this? Impossible. He knelt before a young woman at stage left. He took her hand in serenade during Death Knell,  his croon floating and falling over us.

Energy piled on song by song. At set’s end we got If You Had Ghosts, their superb Roky Erickson number. It had metalheads and punx shakin’ it. Goodbye Melbourne. Black reigned the stage. We couldn't see it, but we glowed.

Of course they kept us waiting. They left little more than five minutes but felt like an eternity.

Peals of piano shattered the still. Light returned once more. For their first encore? Ghuleh/Zombie Queen. A hush seized us as Papa glided into the ritual. Dazed, we all sang along. Zombie Queen is doom metal at the beach. It’s fucking brilliant.

In a voice part Gomez Adams part cartoon Dracula, Papa finally addressed us. “Well that was a motherfucker of a song, eh?” Whoops of joy and laughter followed. This night marked Australia’s first proper ritual. In a black room, underground and packed to the brim. Their parting gift was blackened Iron Butterfly style sing-along Monstrance Clock.

We came together. Together as one. We came together for Lucifer’s son. Cheers, cheers and more cheers.

Papa blew us kisses and clasped his hands in triumph.

We had Ghost. We had everything.