Working late (which seems to be the crux of my existence lately) meant missing upstart act Natur, whose name I’m seeing/hearing increasingly in worlds both virtual and real as one might expect for a heavy band from Brooklyn these days. I almost bought their 7″ on the principle of it being $5 and coming with a download card, but folded last second, feeling cool enough neither to do that nor grab a beer from the Webster Hall bar. The show, which was Ghost‘s night, clearly — their first time in New York — was sold out and in the basement of the venue. They call it “The Studio.” I called it “hot as balls.” It was a packed, sweaty, smelly mess. Like a locker room with a P.A.
Nonetheless, although I’ve been woefully show-up-and-drink early to the last three or four shows I’ve been to, I missed Natur, so apologies to them (and no, Google, I did not mean “nature”). I entered the fray as the Jex Thoth (of Jex Thoth)-fronted Sabbath Assembly were getting ready to roll out their set of alternately Christian and Satanic hymns. Ms. Thoth herself did not take the stage until the set actually started, so her vocal level was a little off at the very beginning, but it was quickly righted, and the crowd was soon enamored.
I missed them at Roadburn, and having enjoyed the Restored to One album I bought there, wanted very much to catch the songs live. From the many harmonized vocal layers on the record, I almost expected there to be two singers, but Thoth, backed mostly by singularly-named guitarist Mike — though also occasionally by bassist Dan Shuman — held it down on her own with an impressive range and no shortage of sexualized occult lure. Whatever works. As their set of songs about gods and devils and usually both (you might say they’re “restoring them to one”) wore on, audience conversation gradually got louder until toward the end, in a particularly quiet section, even with drummer Dave “Xtian” Nuss backing, Thoth could barely be heard above the din.
It’s hard for me to imagine that’s just a New York thing. I mean, “asshole” is universal, right? My ethic has always been that if someone is on stage — especially if they’re quiet — you shut the fuck up. Nothing you have to say is so important that it can’t wait, and if it is, fucking whisper. You’ve got your fancy-ass phone out anyway, send a text! I wasn’t exactly blown away by Sabbath Assembly‘s stage show (there wasn’t one), but is 40 minutes of solid attention really too much to ask from an audience of adults? Shit, you came to the show. Watch the fucking show. It must be really hard to be so much of a somebody that you have to talk through someone else’s performance.
When Sabbath Assembly were done, Ghost made us all wait. And we waited. Impatiently. There were some amp troubles on stage (an Orange was switched out for a Marshall), and the dude next to me, who I did not know, kept announcing in my ear how hot it was — correct in everything but his volume — and the guy in front was Mr. I’m-Gonna-Toss-My-Hair-To-Get-It-Off-My-Neck-Because-It’s-Hot-And-It’s-Gonna-Be-All-Over-You-Because-That’s-How-Tight-The-Room-Is-And-I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck-Because-I’m-An-Inconsiderate-Dick, which only made matters less pleasant. Everyone there had a camera. I didn’t even have to use my flash to take pictures of Evil Pope Guy when Ghost finally took the stage from the side door of the venue — all the others lit the room up just fine.
They played just about all of their Opus Eponymous album, and though the vocals were a little off-key, it was 150 degrees in there and the dude was decked out in plastic prosthetic face makeup and a full robe, so it’s understandable. The backing tracks covered most of it, anyway, and the crowd’s singing along held up a lot of the bargain. Ghost‘s songs are catchy and memorable — “Elizabeth” was a highlight, as were “Stand by Him” and “Death Knell” — and the audience was fervent in their appreciation. Hands raised in Satanic testimony, a crowd surfer, a general rush toward the stage from the start, and I backed out. Too old and too tired by then to deal with any of that shit, I stood off to the side (where I could actually see!) and knew I was in the right spot when Brian “I signed Mercyful Fate” Slagel of Metal Blade came and planted himself nearby. I did my best not to gush.
The Opus Eponymous material alone wasn’t enough to fill out an hour of Ghost‘s time, so they threw in a cover of The Beatles‘ George Harrison-penned Abbey Road classic “Here Comes the Sun,” changing the line “…And it’s alright” to “…And he’s alright” to fit with their devil-worshiping modus operandi. It was clever and they knew it, but that didn’t lessen the enjoyment any. Closing out the night with an anthemic rendition of “Ritual,” Evil Pope Guy (sorry, but when you wear the hat and don’t have a name, you take what you get) proceeded to hold communion at the front of the stage after the song, feeding the crowd what he called, “The cadaver of Christ.” Good fun.
I was beat when I walked in and only more so at the end, so I shuffled with the masses out of Webster Hall, walked over to the next block where I’d parked and made my way into and out of traffic en route to the Holland Tunnel and back home, the strains of “Elizabeth” and Sabbath Assembly‘s “We Give Our Lives” duking it out for which was most stuck in my head. Two days later, the battle rages on.
More pics after the jump.
GhostGhost, New York City, Rise Above, Sabbath Assembly, Sweden