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It’s rare for me to go to an arena show, and when I do, I generally expect the lack of intimacy to seriously diminish the experience. This was certainly the case for Mastodon, who absolutely demolished the basements and bars I saw them play years ago, but they couldn’t energize me in nearly the same way from across Trenton’s cavernous Cure Insurance Arena. The fact that I haven’t paid much attention to their last few albums doesn’t help, but even the songs from my old favorites suffered from the setting.

Ghost, on the other hand, crafted a spectacle that completely transcended the sporty space and had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time. Their show gets bigger and better every time I see them, and I’m especially appreciative of how well designed the lighting is. When Papa belts out the initial Lu-ci-ferrrrrr from “Con Clavi Con Dio,” nothing has ever felt so appropriately, lavishly evil as the deep red that takes over the room, and that was just one among many cues that noticeably elevated the experience. My phone was never going to do it justice, but when the video I shot of “Mary on a Cross” came out with mangled audio, it was the final straw that made me upgrade from a six-year-old iPhone 7 to an iPhone 13 Mini. Ghost ought to get a commission.

If only the little girl in front of me could appreciate the show as much as her extremely tattooed dad wanted her to. The jean vest he made for her, riddled with band patches to match his own vest, didn’t quite go with the stars on her tights or the rainbows on her t-shirt, and she was tuckered out before Ghost even took the stage. Keep the faith, metal dad! Try again when her bedtime is after dark.

Side note: In the unlikely event I ever find myself at this venue again, I won’t take the train or try to save a few bucks by parking at the train station, as we did for this show. It’s only about a half mile from the arena, but it’s a loooong walk. It’s… not a great neighborhood, and our presence was not appreciated.