Ghost w/ King Dude
At Granada Theatre, Lawrence, Kansas, Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Live review and photos by William Seay
I like Ghost. I’ve liked them since they began as a band in 2010. So let’s get that out of the way, because there aren’t many more galvanizing bands in our genre than Ghost. Or Ghost B.C. Or whatever you want to call them. They’ve been around for a few years now, and have seen the gamut of ultra underground hype to acceptance by a more mainstream audience with semi-appropriate underground backlash. But at the end of the day I like the music, enjoy their gimmick, and love a good theatrical live show. And at their heart Ghost delivers a package that includes that in spades.
Now you can add Ghost to a list of shows I’ve seen in the American Midwest that have exceeded my expectations both of the performance on stage and the response by the crowd.
In the days of shows with two local openers, two direct support bands, a co-headliner, plus a full headliner, a show with only two bands is a breath of fresh air. And Seattle’s King Dude couldn’t have been a more off-kilter support act for Ghost. For those expecting a metal band, King Dude likely disappointed. For anyone with an open mind, King Dude made perfect sense. They are a neofolk band from American soil, drenched in western aesthetics, plenty of reverbed guitars and drums, and just a touch of Luciferian love.
King Dude frontman TJ Cowgill has metal roots, being the driving force behind retro death metal act Book of Black Earth (among others). And with King Dude he achieves a much different sound. Cowgill admitted after the show that King Dude began as a bedroom music project but expanded to something a bit more ambitious than that. And with a cool sense of on-stage charisma, a booming baritone voice, and a bit of a cowboy swagger Cowgill converted a mishmash group of metalheads, Satanists, stoners, and hipsters into American neofolk fans. I was impressed with the full sound on stage performed by three guys with no bass player. I was doubly impressed by the attention a crowd full of metalheads gave to a band that is decidedly not metal. I’m sure it helped that they ended with a song called “Lucifer’s the Light of the World,” complete with a singalong chorus. If it sounds strange, it was. But it totally worked.
The crowd was respectfully quiet for King Dude’s subdued performance, but became decidedly anxious to see Ghost. I have seen Ghost before, being front-and-center at the band’s debut American performance at Maryland Deathfest in 2011 (a fact that I proudly touted to anyone who cared to hear it; yeah, I’m that guy). After about 30 minutes of setup, the lights dimmed and the crowd boomed with excitement. From the second the “Nameless Ghouls” emerged, to when the enigmatic Papa Emeritus sauntered on stage, the crowd showed their delight at the satanic spectacle before them.
Ghost gave the performance I expected them to deliver. They’ve improved in every facet from that first show three years ago. The costumes are more ornate. The sound is more streamlined and full. The backdrop is huge and church-like. And Papa Emeritus holds the crowd in his hands. They only have two albums, so the setlist isn’t too surprising. They gave equal attention to both albums and played a full set of music. They played their two best known covers – the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” and Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts.” Both were amazing. And after a brief intermission, the band did their planned encore of “Zombie Queen/Guleh” and “Monstrance Clock.” Both those tracks had ample crowd interaction and I anticipate them staying in the band’s future sets as show closers. They were the perfect way to end the show.
I have to tell you about a few observations from the crowd, though. This is where it gets a bit weird. Playing into the Ghost mythos, there were a few people dressed in costumes. I found that amusing. Two teenagers dressed as Nameless Ghouls actually had impressive enough outfits that they fooled some drunks into thinking they were in the band after the show. That made me smile. The crowd was also a bit rowdy at times, as can happen in a packed pit. At one point, Papa leans down to the center of the crowd and says “Everyone here okay?” He then looked right at a few dudes right next to me and murmured “Behave.”
After the show a few of the more dedicated fans (myself included) waited outside after the theater hoping for the chance to meet the band Ghost out of character. A few ultra-dedicated fans that have been following them around the country told us that all members usually come out to chat with fans. The only caveat is – no surprises here – no pictures. And with patience, all members did come out and talk to their fans. And all six members couldn’t be nicer guys. I was taken aback by just how humble and appreciative they all were of their fans and of the support. Each member signed with a symbol rather than a name. And the man behind the Papa mask signed as Papa Emeritus. He also signed with another pseudonym when I gave him the CD booklet of a different band, a death metal band that also played Maryland Deathfest in 2011.
Conclusions: Ghost is a great live band that I believe can only get better. If you’re a fan of a good live show with a penchant for theatrics this is not a band to miss on a live stage. I personally can’t wait to see them again.