Words & Photos by Amber James
One of the biggest bucket list items I’ve had on my, well, bucket list has been to be able to both shoot Ghost as a photographer and get to experience the ritual in person with numerous other Ghost fans, straight down to the dry sarcastic humor which now comes from Cardinal Copia. For me, personally, prior to their show at the ON Center in Syracuse a few weeks ago I had not ever really taken the opportunity to listen to Ghost’s music. I had always had a large amount of respect for the grandiose production that the band has had on their tours. This tour was no different with them having turned the stage into a dark version of something seeming to resemble the front pulpit of a super church of current times. There was a huge backdrop to mimic the huge stained glass windows you’d see in old Catholic or Orthodox churches of yore as well as an elevated pulpit area where a handful of the Nameless Ghouls man drum, keyboard and percussion duties.
Cardinal Copia emerged in his first outfit of the night in a black suit and what seemed to toe the line of a tuxedo with tails almost. The Cardinal and his Nameless Ghouls came out onto the stage, opening the ritual with their intro track off their newest full length, Prequelle, which at the time of shooting had yet not been released. As I write this, the album has been released today, June 8th. The intro track is entitled “Ashes” and it led right into their single off of it called “Rats”. After a few songs, the Cardinal stepped off to the side for the first album change of the night. He returned clad in a similar outfit to what he previously wore, except this time it was white. However, it still bore the cardinal insignia over the breast pocket area.
About halfway through the night’s first act, because this performance has TWO acts, the band launched into their performance of “Cirice”, which garnered them a Grammy at the 2016 Grammys. To open the song, Cardinal Copia sang part of the song to a woman in the front row before kissing her hand. Soon after they played one of their tracks off of their newest album entitled “Miasma” that was complete with a saxophone solo from Papa Nihil. They moved right into an acoustic version of Jigolo Har Megiddo with two Nameless Ghouls taking a seat on the pulpit steps with acoustic guitars while Cardinal Copia serenaded the crowd.
Meanwhile, not only does the band possess a great amount of musical talent, Cardinal Copia also has a KILLER sense of humor. When he was explaining to the crowd about crowd participation, he gave everyone very explicate instructions, “When we start this so called shuffle I’m gonna need you to clap. And it needs to be on the two and the four. Not the one and the three. It sounds stupid.” In fact, the Cardinal was a fan of giving the crowd very detailed instructions coupled with his dry, sarcastic wit as with his response to the crowd’s applause to his entrance on stage. Deciding the crowd’s applause was rather lackluster, he took it upon himself to call everyone out and demand a redo, “Did you see my entrance? It was so cool, so bitchin’ and you guys did nothing. We’re gonna try this again. Because a Bitchin entrance deserves a big cheer” He paused for a second and leans back over to the crowd and asks “….are you ready?” before he waltzes off the stage to try his entrance again.
As the first act came to an end, the house lights came up and there was a brief intermission to allow people in the crowd to run to the bathroom, grab some more snacks and snag some more beers. There was a handful of people you could tell weren’t aware that it was a two act performance as a few people who vacated their seats never returned for the second act.
The second act opened up with the lead off song “Spirit” off of their previous full length, Meliora, and Copia was clad in a bright red clergy outfit. To add onto the in between song banter, Copia addressed the crowd about the intermission. “Did you use the break? You could’ve taken a piss and not been hassled. Leave your seat. You should’ve taken the chance. Life is full of chances”
The crowd cackled with laughter as Copia singled out a couple people in the first couple rows. A few more songs were played off both their previous and newest full lengths such as “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Faith”.
Soon, the Cardinal remarked to the crowd about the fact that they were the only band playing tonight instead of there being a tour package, which played on the very obvious double entendre with that phrase explaining, “We are the full package. I don’t mean that type of package! I mean there’s no other bands in the package…..what are you laughing at?” Copia asked of people sitting in the first row.
Their song “Mummy Dust” got the brief intro of “Do you like having your taints tickled? Like really fucking tickled? Join us for Mummy Dust” before they played a Roky Erickson cover of “If You Have Ghosts” which included the band intros. Closing out their set with fan favorite, “Square Hammer” the band then returned to close the ritual with an encore of “Monstrance Clock”.
If you’ve never gotten a chance to experience a ritual with Cardinal Copia and the rest of Ghost, I highly recommend it as a bucket list item to make sure you catch them when they come to your area. Because their rituals and the production are, hands down, one of the most intricate and worth it you can see in this genre of music.