Words by Jamie Scalera

Photos by Nick Scalera

Ghost, Spiritbox, and Mastodon rock the Garden State at CURE Insurance Arena on 9/9/2022.

Hundreds of dedicated post-COVID concertgoers snaked around CURE Insurance Arena and down the streets of Trenton, New Jersey as they eagerly awaited the doors to be opened on Friday, September 9, 2022. Fans predominantly clad in black, leather, religious costumes, and band t-shirts crowded the entrances, filling the air with buzzing energy. In speaking with people waiting in line, some had camped out since 9:00 am that morning in hopes of securing a coveted spot at the front of the General Admission floor section. But even the long wait on a warm fall evening didn’t stifle their excitement to see Swedish heavy-metal band, Ghost, headed by Tobias Forge. For some fans of the band, including me, it was their first Ritual (that’s what Ghost concerts are called, for newcomers). Others had been to more, and one man from South America, clad in full Cardinal Copia garb, had been to 21! But Ghost wasn’t the only band attracting ticket holders, as openers Spiritbox and Mastodon also drew fans in.


Ghost, Spiritbox, and Mastodon rock the Garden State at CURE Insurance Arena on 9/9/2022.

Spiritbox, hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, took the stage just after 7:00 pm. The band, fronted by Courtney LaPlante, quickly established an electric relationship with the crowd, many of whom were headbanging to the first song in their set, “Circle With Me.” As LaPlante’s husband, Mike Stringer, wailed away on guitar, drummer Zev Rose aggressively slammed the drums, and tour bassist Josh Gilbert rounded out the power quartet. LaPlante sang of the pain of migraines in “Yellowjacket”as the roar of the appreciative crowd was overpowering. “This one goes out to all the nuns in the crowd - my sisters!,” proclaimed LaPlante, as the band ripped into their song “Holy Roller”. Switching between melodious singing and hard-core metal screams and growls, LaPlante and Spiritbox had everyone in the crowd yearning for more by the time the set concluded with “Hysteria.”

Set list:

“Circle With Me,” “Hurt You,” “Yellowjacket,” “Holy Roller,” “Rotoscope,” and “Hysteria”


Ghost, Spiritbox, and Mastodon rock the Garden State at CURE Insurance Arena on 9/9/2022.

After everyone was left slightly shell shocked, but still delighted, by Spiritbox, Mastodon, headed up by singer Brann Dailor, took the stage to keep the energy up. With a stage setup including giant screens on which animations played and a laser show, many audience members could safely say they’d never seen anything like it. Starting out with a song from their newest album (titled Hushed and Grim), “Pain With An Anchor,” Mastodon blew the crowd away with their mixture of screamed vocals and guitar riffs. Just when the crowd was winding down, Dailor resurrected the energy with “Teardrinker,” an autobiographical song written during a dark part of his life. As the crowd jumped, Mastodon closed out their 11-song set with “Mother Puncher,” a song that left everyone pumped and ready for Ghost.

Set list:

“Pain With An Anchor,” “Crystal Skull,” “Megaladon,” “The Crux,” “Teardrinker,” “Bladecatcher,” “Black Tongue,” “The Czar,” “Pushing The Tides,” “More Than I Could Chew,” “Mother Puncher”


Ghost, Spiritbox, and Mastodon rock the Garden State at CURE Insurance Arena on 9/9/2022.

A white sheet flung from the top of the stage covered the entire set as merry-go-round music played, interrupted by a guitar solo that screamed from behind the curtain. The almost-capacity crowd unleashed their collective voices as the curtain dropped and Ghost lead vocalist Tobias Forge took the stage, clad in his signature makeup. As he and the Nameless Ghouls wailed away on “Kaisarion,” the crowd leaped to their feet, singing along and dancing. When the song ended, Forge greeted the crowd with a “Hello, New Jersey!”, and the fans screamed in response. As the set rolled on, the crowd got more and more excited, from the feet-stomping to the song “Rats,” to Satanic chanting during “Year Zero.” Of course, no Ghost concert is complete without pyrotechnics, costume changes, and entertaining guitar duels between the two Nameless Ghouls. As our dearly departed Papa Nihil was resurrected by a stagehand to play a slamming saxophone solo, the crowd was whipped into a frenzy to “Miasma.” Forge proclaimed “This is a song my Papa used to sing,” and Ghost wailed into “Mary On a Cross.” Dollar bills marked with Papa’s face, worth $666, and confetti exploded from cannons hidden beneath the stage during “Mummy Dust.” As bits of golden confetti continued to rain upon fans, Forge jokingly dismissed the crowd, telling them to “go home!” Of course, no one did, because it is common knowledge in the loyal Ghost fanbase that the show doesn’t stop, even when you’re told to leave. The band returned to the stage to play an arena-shaking encore of their two smash-hits, “Dance Macabre” and “Square Hammer.” As the final guitar notes faded, Forge released us for real this time, and thanked everyone for coming. The crowd responded in kind, releasing a deafening collective cheer, marking the end of a fantastic Ritual in the Garden State.

Set list:

“Kaisarion,” “Rats,” “Faith,” “Spillways,” “Devil Church,” “Cirice,” “Hunter’s Moon,” “Ritual,” “Call Me Little Sunshine,” “Con Clavi Con Dio,” “Prime Mover,” “Year Zero,” “He Is,” “Miasma,” “Mary on a Cross,” “Mummy Dust”; Encore: “Dance Macabre,” “Square Hammer”

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NICK SCALERA has been working as a freelance photojournalist for the past 10 years covering high school and college sports, theater performances, community events and concerts for print and online media outlets in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. He is very fortunate to have met many great people and covered interesting events along the way. For the past 26 years, he has been employed as a middle school Technology teacher and really enjoy working with creative and enthusiastic students.

JAMIE SCALERA is a contributing journalist to Asbury Park Vibes.

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