Carling Academy, Bristol,
Enter the infamous microphone stand, custom-made with skulls and antlers, to whistles and hand salutes. Next came the 10-foot-high wire fencing, penning in the band members from head to foot – all except for Jourgensen. A little paranoid perhaps?
Then the veteran Alain Jourgensen – aka Buck Satan, Hypo Luxa, Alien Dogstar and Grandpa – took centre stage. No disrespect, but the years of drug and alcohol abuse have clearly taken their toll (fair dos, the guy must be heading towards 50), yet he still commanded respect.
Despite having a strong team to back him up – guitarists Tommy Victor (Prong) and Sin Quirin (Revolting Cocks), keyboardist John Bechdel (Fear Factory, Killing Joke), drummer Aaron Rossi (Prong/John 5) and bassist Tony Campos (Static-X) replacing Paul Raven who died last year – essentially Jourgensen IS Ministry, and all eyes were on him. Sin Quirin in his trademark cowboy hat came a close second, though, and seemed a hit with the girls, being thrown a lacy black bra at the end of the night.
Jourgensen has been such a key figure in industrial music over the years (as well as the Revolting Cocks, his other side projects have included 1000 Homo DJs and Acid Horse, among others) that he is a bit of a legend, so for any self-respecting industrial fan, this was a momentous occasion.
After briefly saying hi to the Bristol crowd, the band launched into a relentless, grinding wall of sound. For the first half of the gig, they covered what you might call their more ‘recent’ stuff – from about 2003 onwards, after the suicide of guitarist William Tucker. Songs from albums like Animositisomina, Rio Grande Blood and The Last Sucker had enough raw, distorted energy to satisfy the most seasoned mosher and kept most of the crowd entranced – although my attention span was beginning to wane by half-time.
Video projections delivered Jourgensen’s usual Bush-bashing and “ministry of propaganda” message, with news footage of war interspersed with animations of Bin Laden and Bush doing the rock salute.
Ministry’s best years were undeniably in the late 80s to early 90s, when industrial was still a youth subculture, rather than something that only 30-somethings are into. Albums like The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste and Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed and the Way Tto Suck Eggs (which all went either Gold or Platinum) have become classics and have stood the test of time.
Al came up trumps in the 2nd half, with old favourites like So What?, NWO, Thieves and Just One Fix. But where were the really big tunes like Stigmata or Jesus Built My Hotrod? I felt a little teased. To be fair, he’s probably a bit tired of them by now, but given it was their farewell tour, it would have been appropriate. Even more of a tease were the several encores, the last two of which were metal versions of Just Got Paid by ZZ Top and Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, from Ministry’s latest album,
Cover Up (which also features covers of songs by The Rolling Stones, The Doors and Black Sabbath). This latest album may not signal Ministry’s finest hour, but it was an emotional occasion, and Armstrong’s lyrics seemed apt and heartfelt, as though Jourgensen wanted to thank his fans for their years of dedication.
Grandpa Al might be stepping down off the stage, but he is not retiring from the music scene completely. He has handed Revolting Cocks over to new members (Jourgensen’s last Rev Co album is due out soon and he decribes it as “the best album I have ever done, for any band”) and his own record label, 13th Planet, means he can live on through his protégés, so his legacy will be continued.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Mitchell at SpoiltCat.com