With every new album, Ghost introduce a new singer, a new Papa Emeritus (yeeees, we all know it’s always the same guy under the mask…). As these two shows were the last rituals of the Meliora touring cycle, it was clear that they would also be the end of the reign of Papa Emeritus III. Fans had argued for weeks if we would see a new Papa at these shows already – I doubted it though, as the new album is still about seven months away. Quite the opposite, I didn’t expect anything special to happen at these amusement parks (cool thing in general by the way: you get a full concert included in the entrance ticket to the park, which is much (!) cheaper than a regular concert). I expected them to play the same old setlist they’ve been playing for ages now and then just be done with it. I was so wrong…
Gröna Lund, Stockholm
Expecting fans from all over Europe (and beyond) to come to this show, we got there quite early, just to be on the safe side, and turned out to be the first people in line. How to queue in style: burning incense and listening to Misere Mei Deus, sitting on the cold floor outside an amusement park. Because why not?
By the time the doors to the park opened, there was already a large crowd, so the run for the barrier was tough and it immediately got very tight. Still five hours till Ghost, which I spent squished between the barrier and my neighbour’s giant backpack, unable to move. No rollercoaster rides for the true barrier junkies… (Seriously though. Why do you have to bring a backpack to a concert? And why do you have to pull huge speakers from said backpack and blast Sabaton all day?)
But of course, all the pain in every part of my body was forgotten when Ghost finally entered the stage. Starting as always, with Square Hammer and From The Pinnacle To The Pit… surely Con Clavi Con Dio would be next? No… what was that? Elizabeth! Never heard this song live before, so this was quite a moment. Later in the set though, that moment was put in its place when the band suddenly started playing Deus In Absentia for he first time ever! Like so many Ghost songs, it sounded much better live than on the album, the guitars (especially on the verses) sounded edgier and more concise, and the vocal part proved to be perfectly suited for Papa’s voice.
Flashback to the concert in Munich in April… while we were waiting outside the venue, we heard the band play Bible, Elizabeth and Deus during their soundcheck (and totally freaked out, as you can probably imagine). Bible was played a few days later in Stockholm, but at some point I gave up hope that Deus and Elizabeth would ever appear on the setlist. I WAS SO WRONG!!
But even apart from those ‘special’ songs, the band put on a great performance as usual. Not as much on fire as I remembered them from the ritual at Alcatraz Festival seven weeks before (the performance I mean. The pyro was there, of course.), and I heard a few odd notes here and there in the guitars, but overall there was all the passion and energy which the 2017 edition of Ghost gets so much love and so much hate for. And just like at Alcatraz, after a few songs I fell into some weird state of trance or dream where I don’t perceive the show conciously anymore. So my memory of the show (at least from Cirice onwards) looks somewhat like ‘fog – fog – fog – oh, Deus In Absentia – fog – fog – oh, Papa just mentioned that it’s almost his last show, so has he received his dismissal already? 😉 – fog – together as one – over.’ I guess I’ll have to start a scientific study on why this happens to me at some rituals. Is it just the joy of seeing my favourite band again, or is there something mixed into the incense on stage? In that case, at least we’d have proof that they don’t use the same stuff we buy from Amazon…
After an overnight drive across Sweden and very little sleep at our hostel, the “German Ghuleh Gang” was first in line again. The park opened much earlier than the day before in Stockholm, so there was only a little group of about 20 Ghost fans who ran for the stage. But wait, where was the barrier? Certainly this stage was much too big to play without a barrier like a club show? The truth was, we were just too early and nobody had started to build anything yet. Soon, security sent us back to the other end of the field where we had to wait behind some barriers. It could have been a nice, sunny day at Liseberg, but I admit we didn’t enjoy it that much as we were dead tired, the food was bad and we were stressed out by the whole situation. On top, news kept coming in about the nazi demo that turned the whole city to chaos right outside the park, including gun fires by the police and the entrance to the park being closed down for a while in the afternoon. Getting into Liseberg early really paid off in this regard.
I won’t go into detail how security did the most stupid entrance procedure ever and almost fucked up everything, let’s just say it was a mess and I’m not sure if everybody of the ‘early birds’ made it to the front, even though we tried our best. In the end, all that matters is that we made it and Ghost were about to kick off the last and final ritual of the Meliora era.
Everything was simply perfect this night. The sound was crystal clear (for example, the drums sounded as if I was hearing the sound straight from the kit and not from the speakers, but they were perfectly balanced in the mix), the performance was lively and powerful as ever, even if there was less pyro and no confetti (but who needs pyro if you have Fire Ghoul?), the crowd was absolutely amazing. Thank Satan I didn’t fall into trance today but soaked every detail in. Same setlist as the night before, so Elizabeth and Deus once again. Nothing about Papa III’s performance made you think it was his last show, all he did was take an extra minute to thank the crew for their excellent work over this touring cycle, before the show entered the final song, Monstrance Clock.
It all happened so quick. Halfway through the song, two clergy members appeared out of nowhere on stage, grabbed Papa by his arms and dragged him from the stage. Moments later, the Ghouls stopped playing and left, too. From the other end of the stage, the oldest and creepiest Papa Emeritus ever entered the scenery, accompanied by two more clergy members. Walking stick, oxygen mask, blind eyes, shaking, but of course wearing a splendid papal robe. The hysterical screaming of the audience subsided to silence when he was handed the microphone….
“Io sono il Papa Emerito Zero. La festa è finita.”
And then it was over. We refused to accept this, waited if the band would come back out and play another song, with that spooky new Papa if they must, but as the crew kept deconstructing the equipment, it became clear that nothing was happening anymore. The party was over, our magnificent ‘Dead Astaire’ Papa was gone for good as well as our dapper Ghouls. All that was left was shock and confusion.
I have often compared the changing of Papas to regenerations on Doctor Who, but this felt more like Game of Thrones. The end of Papa Emeritus III was too aprupt and too cruel, I still get goosebumps watching the videos of Papa Zero, and while I would have told you before the concert that I was ready and prepared to let Papa III go, I suddenly missed him like hell. On the other hand, I can’t wait to see what Ghost has in store for us and what kind of Papa we’ll have on stage next year. If it’s gonna be darker – alright, bring on darkness. Bring on 2018. Bring on era IV. How many bands are out there who make you feel like you’re in the middle of a fucking TV show?
So, to say it with Papa III’s words one last time: From the bottom of my heart… from the bottom of all of our hearts… THANK YOU!