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Ghost, Dublin, 16 May 2007

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To say that Ghost's performance impressed me is a gross understatement, the short time they were on stage before me was a gift from the musical heavens. I have always enjoyed their studio exploits but did not expect them to be so awe-inspiring in a live situation. I walked away from this show a little weak in the knees, feeling like I had seen a ghost as well as hearing them.


With a relatively late opening time for a Dublin venue, having two support bands was a bit ambitious. Seadog are a trio consisting of a drummer and two guitar players. Their music was uninteresting, both guitarists played essentially the same thing except one of them added pinch harmonics to the notes every once and while. The end result was like a half-finished backing tape for a run of the mill metal band. If they had varied their music just a bit or if the guitars were playing something different to each other, then they would have had me but they left me disappointed. Betamax Format were better but still hardly trailblazing. Sometimes they got into a good stoner groove, resembling classic Kyuss, but whenever the vocalist sang or when they attempted to go into groovy Hawkwind territories by using synths it all fell apart.

Normally this venue has a curfew of 11pm so when Ghost took to the stage with only 45 minutes to go I was a little worried that they would not get to play a full set. Thankfully they stayed on well past the barstaff's bedtime. Masaki Batoh took centre stage to invite us to share in the experience and with that Ghost began to cast their spell. Beginning with an awesome free form jam, each member filled in a particular space in the sound. It was chaotic, energetic and beautiful. Batoh crouched almost out of sight, operating what appeared to be an air synth (played kind of like a theremin but sounding completely different) which added a roaring static sound to the group’s already expressive improvisations. After a few minutes the turmoil had morphed into a tight rhythm, every member locked into place and thundering along to Junzo Tateiwa's beats.

Unfortunately there was some unpleasantness to the night. A group of drunks to one side of the room were incredibly disturbing but luckily they all had the good sense to leave before the tension in the crowd boiled over into something nasty. Later, some technical problems with the keyboards created some strain on stage. I could not see whether Kazuo Ogino knocked over one of his synths by accident or deliberately threw it to the floor in frustration but he looked far from happy for the rest of the gig. Overall, these events did not ruin the gig for me but these sort of bad vibes did seem to have an effect on the crowd and their interaction with the band.

On a more positive note, Michio Kurihara's guitar playing was nothing short of godlike. Mine was not the only jaw that dropped at the sound of him making his guitar sing. Most importantly, he is one of the few genuinely gifted guitarists who does not feel the need to push it in your face at the expense of the song. He holds back until he is needed and then unleashes a storm upon all in the room. His playing more than makes up for any amount of obnoxious drunks in the audience. Even if Kurihara stole the show for me, the rest of Ghost are far from novices and they too deserve praise. The energy they exuded through their playing is only hinted at on a CD. I wish I had the chance to watch them over and over again as they were so captivating to experience. However, the somewhat thin crowd might not entice Ghost to come back running which is a damn shame.

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 May 2007 06:27  


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