LIVE REVIEW: Ministry – 9/24/16 @ NRG Park, Houston, TX

When Ministry took the stage on Saturday afternoon, the crowd was ready to let off some steam. You can read our event review here, but the short story is weather delayed this event, whose door time was originally 11am, but actually a quarter to 5pm. Due to lightning within a 7-10 mile radius of the event, organizers were obligated to evacuate ticket holders, vendors, and artists until meteorologists gave the go-ahead. Needless to say, people were pissed. But, now we were finally here. This was our time. We’ve had at least one beer. We’ve got our spot as close to the stage as possible. Let’s rock the fuck out.

Of course, on the surface, Ministry is the perfect band to deliver this visceral release of frustration. But, as I witnessed, it’s something beyond that when the band exceeds all expectations by delivering a relentless, high energy 9-song/45-minute set. The abbreviated set saw some adjustments compared to the other festival sets Ministry’s done this year. While they’ve typically kicked things off with “Hail to his Majesty (Peasants),” this time it was a teeth-kicking “Punch in the Face.” And right off the bat, the crowd goes ape shit. I didn’t get as close to the stage as I would’ve liked, but I was close enough to the mosh pit to get scared more than a couple of times. The energy of the crowd was feeding off the energy of the band. Al Jourgensen was active, animated, and delivering the goods. His band, as always, were spot-on; but also, particularly high energy. We last reviewed Ministry on their first gig of 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada, that featured Aaron Rossi (Prong) on drums and Tony Campos (Fear Factory) on bass. However, the band has been touring Europe and Asia with Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour, Amebix) on drums and Jason Christopher (Stone Sour, Prong) on bass. As usual, Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto manned the guitars and John Bechdel (Fear Factory, Killing Joke) was on keyboards. Quirin and Soto, typically brought the rock. But, Christopher and Mayorga have really injected the band with a shot of energy.

The band fired through a set of head-on, just like a car crash, industrial-metal barn-burners. “PermaWar” followed “Punch,” then the band blasted through “Rio Grande Blood,” “Senor Peligro,” and “Lies, Lies, Lies,” from the 2006 LP Rio Grande Blood. The mosh pit was ferocious. Bodies, sunglasses, hats, smartphones, and beer bottles were flying. The pit churned savagely and it wasn’t long before I saw a couple of bloodied faces. And I mean, it was crazy. I noticed on more than one occasion that those of us near the front were as focused on what was happening in the pit as we were on the band. And bang, another pit started on the other side of me. If this wasn’t an outdoor event, I’d drop a “Ministry tore the roof of the place” line. And this is exactly what this frustrated crowd needed.

There wasn’t much chatter between songs, rather the band just hammered through each song successively. “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix” from their 1992 LP Psalm 69 further enthused the now feverish crowd. The highlight for me was a re-worked version of “Stigmata,” from their seminal Land of Rape and Honey LP. This is one of those songs I have never witnessed live and it was a special treat. Jourgensen, who has often lamented the jukebox nature of live performance, certainly seemed to be having a good time and really nailed the vocals on “Stigmata.” To say the band closed with “Thieves” is kind of weird. Yes, they did close with “Thieves,” but damn if it didn’t feel like I was just getting warmed up. Their original time may have only been for 50 minutes or one more song, but the crowd and myself were at full throttle. When “Thieves” ended most of us just stood there in disbelief that this set just flew by in front of us. It was intense and completely satisfying. But, we all would’ve been happy with half dozen more songs.

–  J. Kevin Lynch


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