Papa Emeritus III and his band of Nameless Ghouls had a capacity audience eating out of their hands Thursday night at the Fillmore on Miami Beach. This was the band’s first appearance in Miami, and although I had seen them twice before as part of festivals, this was the first time I had ever seen them as headliners. I thought they were impressive before, but this show was both theatrical and a hard rocking spectacle.
From the blast of pre-show frankincense and myrrh to their pseudo-stained glass window background, every detail was designed to thrill. Performing songs from their Grammy-winning CD Meliora, their new EP Popestar as well as their classic hits, the band’s set list provided something for fans both old and new. The show was a nearly two-hour feast for Ghost devotees.
Combining heavy metal riffs with haunting melodies, the Nameless Ghoul guitarists (the band’s identities are closely guarded secrets) stylishly paraded across the stage with Ghouls on drums and keyboards in the background. Papa Emeritus III came out in full clergy gear for the first half of the show, opening the set with “Square Hammer” from Popestar. Of course, you have to buy into their whole Black Mass, Lucifer-worshipping schtick – something that has gotten them in hot water with background singers (they couldn’t find a choir to perform backing vocals in Nashville and had to record in L.A.) and CD manufacturers refusing to print cover art – something no one in the audience had any problem doing.
The band also played Cirice, Pinnacle, Absolution, Mummy Dust, Devil Church, Body and Blood – more than a dozen songs in total. At one point, two sexy nuns came out and helped the band do a mock “mass.” Papa is also a showman – his banter between numbers is interactive, often hilarious and sometimes x-rated (although his celebration of the female orgasm was greeted with much rejoicing from all members of the audience). Seriously, if Papa gets tired of rock and roll, he could start a whole new gig as a stand-up comedian.
Seriously, though, Ghost and their music is all in good fun. The band is meant to provoke and make listeners think about their relationship between whatever God they believe in and organized religion. They put on one hell of a show (no pun intended) delivering their message.