I honestly had no idea what to expect from Ministry’s Fonda show last week. I’m a longtime fan of these industrial trailblazers, dating all the way back to the groundbreaking “Land of Rape and Honey,” and their magnum opus “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.” And I’ve witnessed their live performances from that era, when Ministry was at their loudest, fiercest, most maniacal intensity.
That was a long time ago. But I remember it clearly. They made punk look like a pop song. And metal just seemed quaint. Because it wasn’t just the volume or the speed, which were undoubtedly relevant. It was the unfiltered in-your-face fuck-all lifestyle of an attitude that they lived and breathed everyday. And Ministry were masters of it.
I guess this is as good a point as any to point out that these guys aren’t for everyone. You might’ve figured that out on your own. But back in the day, if you were a part of the disillusioned angry youth, and you needed an outlet to vent, Ministry were more than ready to oblige. I’m not sure what fills that void today. But I’m pretty sure, whatever it is, it doesn’t compare to the ferocity of Ministry’s early work.
So given all that, I approached their recent tour with more than a few degrees of caution, knowing full well that the past is the past, and whatever passes for present would never live up to those expectations.
Thankfully, my concerns were mostly unfounded, with nostalgia doing most of the heavy-lifting. Sure, it was loud – and I mean, really loud. And there was plenty of angst and anger to fill the Fonda, all of it now focused on today’s political and social concerns. But founder and frontman Al Jourgensen, who’s the sole remaining original member, seems to be more reflective than confrontational. There’s a general sense of comfort and enjoyment in his performance, which I never thought I’d see. Back in my days of music journalism, I met him more than few times. He was super cool. But he had habits that made him restless as all hell. I have many stories from those days, none fit to print. So to see him at peace, or for what passes as peace in the Ministry mindset, is truly surprising.
Ministry smartly split the show into two sets, the first performing their latest album “AmeriKKKant” in its entirety, the second focused on many of the old favorites.
Honestly, I didn’t have a great deal of familiarity with the new material. But from hearing it live, it’s a perfectly fine addition to the Ministry catalogue. It plays like a greatest hits compilation, in terms of sonic composition. And it’s their first for the Trump era, of which they have plenty to say. When Bush was running the show, Ministry fans might recall that Jourgensen was pretty vocal with his criticism. For a band that mainlined aggression, they’ve always had their heart in the right place.
The real meal was the second half, filled with an eight-course smattering of oldies, all performed faithfully and with the requisite intensity. But like I mentioned, through the lens of nostalgia. I mean, it was great to hear this stuff. And it was the main reason I went. Plus, it looked like Jourgensen and co. were genuinely having a good time of it.
Ministry started the second set with four tracks from “The Land of Rape and Honey,” including the title track, as well as “The Missing,” “Diety,” and the classic “Stigmata.” My only wish is that they played the longer version of “Stigmata.” But I guess that rendition was a product of its time, and remains as such.
Then there were a couple of offerings from “Psalm 69.” The two tracks, “Just One Fix” and “N.W.O.,” actually got radio airtime, when this album was released back in ’92. Back then, Ministry played well on the college stations. But mainstream alternative radio was never that daring.
They concluded with two from “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste,” the opener “Thieves” and the anthemic “So What,” the latter of which brought Revolting Cock’s frontman Chris Connelly to the stage for vocal assist.
Here’s the entire second set, broken down into two parts. I love this early stuff, so every bit of it is worth posting.
Ministry perform “The Land of Rape & Honey,” “The Missing,” “Deity,” “Stigmata,” and “Just One Fix” @ the Fonda on 12.21.18.
Ministry perform “N.W.O.,” “Thieves,” and “So What (featuring Chris Connelly on vocals)” @ the Fonda on 12.21.18.
Lastly, in a bizarre twist, Ministry offered an acoustic encore of “Everyday is Halloween” with Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro on guitar and Chris Connelly returning for backing vocals. This is a weird one because I never thought I’d hear this performed live … ever. It comes from Ministry’s first album, released in ’83, which can only be described as synth-pop. It’s worlds apart from the sound and fury that’s defined Ministry for nearly three decades. So to hear it today definitely says something. Did I mention nostalgia?
Ministry perform “Everyday is Halloween” with Dave Navarro on acoustic guitar and Chris Connelly on backing vocals @ the Fonda on 12.21.18