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Ghost Live at Long Island’s The Paramount

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Ghost’s “Cirice” won the Grammy for “Best Metal Performance” in February, but the group has had a sizable cult following here since at least 2013. They played and drew well at Terminal 5 (a 3,000-capacity Hell’s Kitchen venue) last time they were in the area, so it was a little startling to be heading out to The Paramount, which packs out at half that number, on April 15. What the Paramount lacks in size, though, it makes up for in sound and lighting quality; both areas of constant complaint for Terminal 5. The crowd was large, diverse, and incredibly enthusiastic, with many concertgoers in artful skull makeup.

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There was exceptional turnout for the opener, psychedelic shredders The Shrine, who have a comfortable and endearing “just your neighborhood nice-young-man headbangers” stage presence. They introduced and contextualized each song in their 30-minute set and had a lot of spunk, smiling beneath their bandanas and curls. Their sound, self-described as “psychedelic violence rock and roll,” is heavy and competent, if a little under-developed. Their best tracks were “What’s Left For Me” and “Nothing Forever.”

Ghost’s set begins with a long lead-in of ominous chanting tracks (Gregorio Allegi’s “Miserere em, Dues” and Jocelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball”) and an overpowering amount of incense. Right when this reviewer began to get impatient and lose consciousness from smoke inhalation the curtain rose, a fully-adorned Papa Emeritus III entered for “Spirit,” and all were immediately transfixed.

Their show was divided into two distinct parts: “Spirit,” “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” “Stand by Him,” “Con Clavi Con Dio,” “Per Aspera ad Inferi,” “Body and Blood” were pure doom and deliciously blasphemous Catholic japes. Around the time they started “Cirice,” Emeritus III shucked his Papal robes and laid aside the scepter, switching gears for a more playful second act. Forsaking the sweeping gestures and menacing gaze of the first half, Emeritus III danced suggestively, blew kisses and even engaged in some flamenco over the course of “Year Zero,” “He Is,” and “Absolution.”

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For a band with a reputation for the mysterious, Ghost were engaging and interactive, and had a very approachable air, even going so far as to gently remind the crowd to behave. There were several funny moments, such as when the Nameless Ghouls went acoustic, sitting on the edge of the risers and swinging their legs in unison for a cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts.”

To say that Ghost’s performance was theatrical would seem trite and obvious, but it’s the most appropriate adjective. A less expressive group, or one that took itself too seriously, would be utterly unable to pull off their schtick with any dignity. Emeritus III and the Nameless Ghouls provoked nearly 1,500 people in Long Island to chant “Lucifer” in unison, to laugh at themselves for it, and then to agree to “group orgasm” in the form of their traditional closing track, “Monstrance Clock” in the same 90 minutes, all with a wink, a nudge and a poke from an upside-down cross. Now that’s owning a room.

—Blair Hopkins

The Shrine

Ghost

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