Valby Hallen, Copenhagen - 2017

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Heading out on their Popestar tour, Ghost made a stop at the newly fixed up Valby Hallen in Copenhagen.
It’s never struck me as a great venue – sure, it is big, but the sound in this concrete sports stadium has been far from satisfactory in the past. By the looks of it, I couldn’t immediately see a difference, but the sound didn’t seem all that bad actually. That’s a positive.

Why am I writing all of this, you wonder? Why, because with only a few changes to the wording, what has gone on with Valby Hallen, and my feelings about the place, could just as easily be a description of Ghost. Just look at it this way.
Heading out on their Popestar tour, a newly fixed up Ghost made a stop at Valby Hallen in Copenhagen. They’ve never struck me as a great band – sure, they’re big, but their songs have been far from satisfactory in the past. By looking at them, I couldn’t immediately see a difference, but some of their newer songs aren’t all that bad actually. That’s a positive.

“Do you like heavy music? I mean really heavy!”
- Papa Emeritus III (vocals)

Now, what’s this about a newly fixed Ghost? Well, if you follow any kind of metal news outlet with any kind of regularity, I’d be surprised if you’ve managed to stay clear of all the things that go on in Ghost town at the moment, what with all the musicians changing, and so on, and so forth. That’s not what’s relevant right here though, and thus we shall not delve deeper into the issue. Suffice to say, is that vocalist Tobias ‘Papa Emeritus III’ (and II and I for that matter) Forge, is the only original man left in the band, and all of the Nameless Ghouls have been switched out.
Did this affect the show then? Hard to say, honestly. I mean, visually it’s all the same – except that their new bass player seems to be very short – what with all the masks and cloaks. Performance ways, well, I enjoyed the old crew, as can be seen by our previous reviews of the band, but I must say that the new team was very cool as well. They took a good hold of the large stage and used it to its full extent. While in musical sections, they would make their mark, especially so their lead guitarist who stood on a box at the edge of the stage with all the spotlights pointing at him. While it was time for Forge to be in the centre of attention, the rest fell back, sometimes for synchronized swinging on the stair-like stage decoration, and sometimes for individual fun and games.
Did all the controversy affect Papa Emeritus III? If it did, I’d have to say for the better, strangely enough. Forge was at the top of his game this night, both in singing and performing. When he didn’t have anything to do on stage, he left it to the Nameless Ghouls, and when he did have something to do, he had a knack for sudden and dramatical entrances. Another positive improvement from our earlier encounters, was that Forge had a much better connection with the crowd this night. He spoke freely between songs, and even during songs he could be seen keeping that connection going, by a personal wave of the hand, or just his intense stare.

“Have you been drinking? What have you been drinking? Let me guess, Carlsberg? (buh!) Tuborg then. (yeah!) Eh, same shit.”
- Papa Emeritus III (vocals)

While the songs and the jokes went straight to the hearts of the crowd, Ghost didn’t let it end there. Keep in mind, this was the first time I saw the band outside of a festival setting, in a place where they were able to do their own thing to the fullest. Hence, I don’t know how much of this was standard Ghost behaviour, and how many gimmicks were new for this tour.
What I did notice though, was that the frontman made use of both of his iconic costumes, both the hellish pope, and that of the refined gentleman. This mix added a bit of visual interest to the show.
So did the two nuns brought in for Body And Blood. First up on the stage, they were handed the unholy sacrament by Papa Emeritus III. They then took the body and the blood with them to the security pit, where they provided it for the selected few who stood in the frontline.
It has always been the visuals I’ve found most attracting about this band – from their ingenious artwork where they give their own take to classical imagery from films, music, and what have you, to their appearance on stage, and not in the least their often beautiful and atmospheric music videos. It was no different this night.
After opening the show with Square Hammer, the first song that has really gripped me by this band, I had a hard time seeing how they could keep my interest for an entire show. Well, musically they had a tough job doing it, and after a few songs I began feeling what it is that I have had as my major issue with the band – too much in one go, and it all turns too spacey and blurry. Songs begin to melt into each other. There were other hits strewn in across the field luckily, the love song Cirice during which Papa Emeritus took on his most flirtatious persona, and melted a few hearts in the crowd by the sound of it, and later Year Zero and Ritual.

Moving back to the top though, the tour – as well as the latest EP – was called Popestar, and it is by no stretch of the imagination obvious that this alludes to the word popstar. And I believe that pretty much sums it up for me, because under all that old-school horror imagery and devil praising lyrics, what Ghost delivers is pretty much pop music.
For a few songs now and then that can be fine, but in the extent of an entire show, that simply becomes too much pop for me. Others loved it, obviously, but I don’t like the band any more or less than when I walked in.


Misere Mei, Deus (Gregori Allegri song)
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
Square Hammer
From The Pinnacle To The Pit
Secular Haze
Con Clavi Con Dio
Per Aspera Ad Inferi
Body And Blood
Devil Church
Year Zero
He Is
Mummy Dust
Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
Monstrance Clock
The Host Of Seraphim (Dead Can Dance song)

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