Hardcore Ministry fans packed the house at The Agora last Tuesday (5.6.08). They drove from all over the country to smoke, drink and party their way into the depths of metal depravity to “celebrate” the farewell tour of one of the most influential bands in all of industrial music. Twenty seven years later, Ministry has influenced everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Marilyn Manson. Now, frontman Al Jourgenson is ready to retire from touring. This show was a who’s who of industrial music fans in the area. No one who calls themselves a true fan of the genre would dare miss this show.
The tension in the air was palpable as the stage was set up for Ministry. When Jourgenson’s trademark antler adorned mic appeared, there was a fanatical crowd reaction. A spooky electro intro got the crowd and bodyguards in place and Jourgenson and Co. took the stage and bombarded the crowd with sinister riffs. Donning his usual layer of dirty dreads, cowboy hat and dark
shades, Jourgenson took his rightful place as pariah of the industrial scene, playing one last time for his faithful minions. Unfortunately, the set did not live up to the billing as the last tour ever. While the fans expected a “best of” set, Ministry did anything but. The first hour and a half was comprised completely of newer material from their last three albums- ‘House of Molé,’ ‘Rio Grande Blood,’ and ‘The Last Sucker.’ Ensconced by a backdrop of anti-George Bush propaganda, murder, mayhem, and gore, Jourgenson took his anti-Bush tirade to the next level. With little commentary between songs, the focus was on the music. Backed by an all star band assembled from Prong (Tommy Victor on guitar), Static-X (Tony Campos on bass) and The Revolting Cocks (Sin Quirin on guitar) the music of Ministry never sounded tighter. With the crowd a morass of writhing bodies and fists, the band repeatedly charged the fence separating them from the crowd, inciting chaos. Despite the lack of hits, the songs “Lies, Lies, Lies” and “Watch Yourself” proved to be crowd pleasers and created a frenzy in the mosh pit.
Just when the crowd was convinced they would never again hear their favorite Ministry song live, the band decided to appease their audience and rolled out some old favorites. “NWO” was received to thunderous applause and cheering. “Just One Fix” was followed by “Thieves” and the crowd thought they were going to get an entire other set of old material to remember Ministry’s last show. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Three songs were all they were going to get. Most thought Jourgenson would throw us a bone and play at least one song from Ministry’s very early days, to no avail. Instead, we were treated to a three song encore consisting tunes from their latest album ‘Cover Up,’ which consists of all covers. An anticlimactic way to go out, all the fans were unpleasantly surprised with the choice of encore songs. Nevertheless, Ministry put on a solid show and left the crowd regretting it would be their last chance to see them live.
Swedish “math rockers” Meshuggah provided an interesting prelude to Ministry. Known for their unusual and difficult to categorize style of metal, these guys came ready to rip the roof off of the theater. Frontman Jens Kidman growled, screamed, and shouted maniacally, all the while managing to bang his head so low it looked as if he was doing crunches. His psychotic facial expressions made shivers go up everyone’s spine as Meshuggah powered through favorites off of their new album, ‘Obzen’. Known for crafting a style of metal that is as unique as it is aurally stimulating, Meshuggah captivated the crowd with their high tech riffs, abrupt tempo changes and asymmetrical precision drumming. Drummer Tomas Haake has the uncanny ability to get several beats going at once by using his hands for one beat and his feet, simultaneously, for another. Guitarist Frederik Thordenal plays an eight string guitar and impressed even the most scrutinizing metalhead when he shredded on tracks such as “Electric Red” and “Pravus.”
It takes a lot of guts to take a strong opener out on the road with you, but it certainly was not guts Ministry was lacking, just the foresight to know that the fans would want to hear the classics on their farewell tour. Maybe it was just irreverent Jourgenson, doing it his way, all the way to the end. Whatever the reason, the evening was pure unadulterated industrial chaos and will hopefully encourage Ministry to get it together one last time to give us the classics.