I’ll have to admit this was one for the books! While I enjoy Ghost‘s music, I wouldn’t, by any means, call myself a fan, a clergy die-hard, or member of the mass. I was originally pulled in by Spiritbox, whom I’ve adored since early on, and was all too ecstatic to see on stage again (though it was a bit short, and I’ll get to that later). Mastodon was on the bill as well, and I hadn’t paid too much attention to them or their music but, I did recognize it from old video games and playlists.
While the venue seemed like an odd choice, access via GO Train, TTC, and car was all very easily accommodated due to it being located on the Exhibition Grounds. The previously known Ricoh Coliseum, home to the Toronto Marlies for those familiar with the territory, was now called the Coca-Cola Coliseum and featured (naturally) Coca-Cola products and a variety of vendors to support that brand including Smoke’s Poutinerie, Pizza Pizza, and others. This allowed fans to grab a bite inside before the show, having likely beat out traffic (and dinner) to be able to line up early in hopes of grabbing merch and a good spot along the rail for the show.
Doors opened at 6PM EST SHARP! Within moments, the line that had wrapped around the building was shuffling forward, and despite a few hiccups for General Admission attendees (where once through security we had to re-loop the line to grab wristbands and get tickets scanned) it was a seamless entry. The merch line was ridiculously line, so I opted to skip it for the time being and hit it just before the show’s end to see what was available.
Venturing to the floor, it was an easy access area, with many having chosen to go for food, merch, and beer before the show, leaving room along the front few rows for my friend and I to shift in. We chatted with a few familiar faces, and new, before the show commenced just before 7pm, opening with none other than the Canadian brilliance that is Spiritbox.
Kicking off with the popular “Circle With Me” , the band appeared with an unstoppable energy that was both contagious and admirable. Having openers that go as hard as they sound on record always brings a smile to my face, and Spiritbox had me hooked. Singing along from “Hurt You” through to “Holy Roller”, Courtney had much of the audience in her grasp, blowing new fans away with her harsh vocals, and owning the stage with her vocal prowess and performance.
Though the set was only about a half hour long, with only six songs on the bill, it left me waiting for Spiritbox to headline hopefully sooner rather than later, and many other fans around me, both new and old, couldn’t agree more.
Mastodon wowed the crowd with their array of visual effects and stage presence. With their set more on the progressive-side (sounding much more of the Stoner Rock era in my ears) I couldn’t help but be left in awe at the amount of production they had. From spine-tingling riffs, to drums you felt in your throat, the combination of technical skill and visual features definitely had my eyes locked on. Familiar tracks like “Teardrinker” and “The Czar” got fans in the mood, and with visuals accompanying each track in a variety of colours and light additions, it was hard not to admire the planning that must’ve went into such a stage set-up.
Unfortunately, most of Mastodon‘s songs still seem to blend together, which left me a little bored with the overall sound, and still in preference of them appearing randomly throughout playlists than being stuck as a feature. Suitable for a long drive, I still couldn’t help but be amazed by their stage show. If you do get a chance to see these guys live, it’s worth it for the production alone with lasers, massive screens, and next level skill that will have you speechless.
With things starting a little early for the evening, our hopes were the same for Ghost but, that was only half-realized. A white curtain fell as Mastodon‘s set was dragged away piece by piece, leaving room for the stage hands to get to work on Ghost‘s phenomenal stage build. For nearly half an hour fans were left to speculate and converse, waiting eagerly for when the lights would fade and the curtain dropped to reveal our headliner.
The crowd became nearly unhinged as the lights quickly dropped, and the familiar sound of “Klara stjärnor” began to play over the speakers. Our eagerness became jitters, and fans quickly whipped up their phones for a chance to snag the moment when Ghost would hit the stage. “Kaisarion” began with a tremendous bang from the canons; the white curtain dropping to reveal Papa in all his majesty, belting it out as fans lost their minds.
The ghouls were not to be outdone, donning matching outfits reminiscent of the 1920’s to 40’s and the wartime gas masks required for many citizens engulfed in the World Wars. It was eerie yet intriguing as their outfits carried a militaristic quality that seemed to demand not only attention but, obedience.
Carrying on into the fan-favourite “Rats”, Papa moved about the stage like a specter, captivating each and every audience member as he floated by. Fan interactions were something Papa took great pride in. From singing into cell-phone cameras for long periods, to even striking a quick pose for nearby fans with fingers pointed and eyes locked. Not one to shy away from the camera, the Ghouls were quick to follow up, jumping to the front of the stage to have their own moments of glory.
I’d not paid much attention to the newest album, ‘Impera’ despite it’s 2022 release but, that was remedied soon after as the song “Spillways” flowed through me and I couldn’t help but sing it the rest of the way home as I put it on my own playlist for repeated listening.
Fans seemed impressed by “Griftwood” as it had been made room for on the setlist as previous show attendees had mentioned it being skipped on earlier shows. This had fans beyond excited at the chance to be some of the very few who got to hear it live ‘first’. Of course, this was followed by the Halloween Kills track and one of my personal favourites, “Hunter’s Moon” that got fans bouncing on their heels.
The stage set-up for Ghost‘s performance was ENORMOUS. With each and every band member being given more than a few feet of space all around them, it was a wonder how they still managed to set up the false stained glass, and church-like backdrop with ease. Papa’s outfit changes were also speedy, and he had easy access behind the drum pedestal to disappear and be back within a few short moments. Of course, one popular change came for my favourite track, “Call Me Little Sunshine” where Papa emerged in full Religious regalia. Fans cheered and sang along, word for word, myself included, as Papa watched over his flock with a smile.
With a 20-song set-list, it seemed that Ghost hit the mark on each song they selected. From the early album tracks like “Ritual” new favourites like “Watcher in the Sky” hitting fans deeply, leaving a few even in tears around me. With solid riffs, intriguing dances (did anyone else notice the seductive dances from the back-up singers and instrumentalists in the back or was that just me?), and beautiful stage set-up, Ghost had fans more than pleased with what they dished out.
Running at nearly 2 hours, this band not only gives you your money’s worth but, makes for some wonderful memories as I, myself, saw a range of fans from the very young 6-7 year olds, and upwards through the 70’s.
Ghost did not disappoint, rounding out the evening with one of their most popular, if not most memorable track “Square Hammer” that had them bow out with a spectacular display of raining sparks before they finally took their leave.
At the end, I managed to get some Mummy Bucks (I did end up on the rail shortly after the show began), a white guitar pick, and even a tour shirt as I left as “Dance Macabre” came on – the last song of the night or so we were to believe (naturally, they wouldn’t leave out Square Hammer!)
Of course, as shown above, the pyrotechnics were their own splendor. From fireworks, to confetti canons that let ‘Mummy Bucks’ rain down over fans, and even flames, Ghost brought their absolute best in both stage show and energy for fans in Toronto, and I can honestly say I’m more a fan now than I was going into it for sure.
You can see a few live clips from the show over on my IG including “Call Me Little Sunshine” and “Rats” – check them out here! And if you missed out on an Imperatour stop, you can find a lot of the Tour Merch on their shop!