Last year, Ministry toured North America, South America, Australia, and South Africa in support of their 2013 album From Beer to Eternity. In 2016, they resume touring to hit the United Kingdom, Germany, and eastern Europe. Also included on the front and back ends of this touring stretch are a handful of festival dates in the United States, kicking off with a warm up show as part of Las Vegas’ Punk Rock Bowling festival. Playing to a sold out 850 capacity Fremont Country Club, Ministry’s first show of the year showed zero signs of rust and all signs that they remain a live act to be reckoned with.
Ministry’s set covered nearly 30 years of the bands history and included songs from as far back as 1988’s industrial classic The Land of Rape and Honey, all the way up to songs from Jourgensen’s most recent project, this years’ self-titled LP Surgical Meth Machine. Joined by guitarists’ Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto, bassist Tony Campos, drummer Aaron Rossi, and keyboardist John Bechdel, Jourgensen and his crew fired through the set relentlessly. The crowd was a hot mess of energy. Mosh pits swirled, shoes were lost, and never once did the crowd or the band let up.
If this set list is indicative of the forthcoming European tour, it seems that most of Jourgensen’s Bush Trilogy (2004’s Houses of the Mole, 2006’s Rio Grande Blood, and 2007’s The Last Sucker) and 2012’s Relapse have been dropped. “LiesLiesLies,” “Senor Peligro,” and “Khyber Pass” from Rio Grande Blood remain in the set, however the rest of the Bush trilogy is absent. In their place, Jourgensen has finally decided to revisit some of the classic material that first put him and his motley crew on the map back in the late 80’s.
“The Missing” and “Deity” from The Land of Rape and Honey LP were welcome additions that received huge reactions from the crowd. These two songs sounded just as fresh and relevant in 2016 as they did in 1988. Jourgensen, who remarked to the crowd that they wanted him to be a “jukebox,” sure did deliver the goods regardless of his presumed annoyance (maybe it was just sarcasm). Jourgensen seemed high energy and enthusiastic all night long. “Thieves” from The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste LP put the crowd in a frenzy, as did “Just One Fix” and “Psalm 69” from the Psalm 69 LP.
The bands’ first of two encores included “Breathe” from The Mind album and “Khyber Pass” from Rio Grande Blood. Not surprisingly, “Breathe” received a huge response from the audience on hand. The second encore was more of a small showcase for Jourgensen’s latest project, Surgical Meth Machine. Kicking off with the superb cover of Devo’s “Gates of Steel,” the band – adorned in gas masks and SMM tshirts –soon left the stage as one time founding NWA member, the Arabian Prince, came out to do a solo DJ mix of a few other SMM tracks. The band soon returned, this time with some burlesque dancers and Mandi Martyr on vocals to sing SMM’s “I’m Invisible.” At this point of the show the crowd was largely exhausted and had thinned considerably. Simply put, Ministry wore everybody out.
If you’re lucky enough to catch Ministry in 2016, you won’t regret it. This semi-retrospective set list should excite long time fans of the band. More importantly, those songs are just as vital today as they ever were and fit into the set seamlessly with material written 15-20 years later. Ministry’s reputation as a great live band stretches back to the mid-1980’s, punctuated by The Mind tour that produced the classic live album In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up and their show-stealing performance on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour. All these years later, Al Jourgensen and company continue to live up to expectations.
– J. Kevin Lynch