Photos by Dale Patrick Bennett and may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Alex Zander/MK ULTRA Magazine
The lights went down promptly at 9:30 inside of Chicago’s Riviera Theater on a chilly April night. The days of whether or not MINISTRY would or could make it onstage in time were long ago, but still fresh n my memoires. There had been more than a few. By tonight I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the band perform live in just under 3 decades. I’ve also lost track of how many incarnations of the band I’ve witnessed Uncle Al take out of the road with him. Call him what name you choose as he has as many as he does Grammy nominations. Grandpa Jourgensen, Alien Jourgensen, Hypo Luxa, Buck Satan, Alien Dog Star or just Uncle Al, there’s no denying that he is widely regarded as the leading the figurehead of this genre of music and been given the moniker “the godfather of industrial music.”
Jourgensen’s co-conspirators, the 5 man backing band that this time included DJ Swamp as live scratcher, came out under the tuned down rumble of “I Know Words” from their latest offering “AmeriKKKant” and launched into the slow groove of the latest single “Twilight Zone” as Al joined his mates onstage for 90-minutes of ear crushing sonic thunder. It didn’t take long to take notice of a leaner cleaner front man. At 59 years of age it appears that LA has really done a number on him as apparently is he not only a few years free of booze, red wine in his case, and over a decade clean of drugs but for his age he’s in peak physical condition. Though I don’t picture him eating salads or jogging alongside former MINISTRY guitarist and Prongs main man Tommy Victor through the trails of LA, he’s by far the healthiest version of the man I’ve ever witnessed. Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell took over vocal duties on “Victims of a Clown” also from the new record as Al strapped on and played something other than his trademark Gibson SG. Fond memories of the “Filth Pig” version of the band echoes through my mind as I listen to the latest album with his haunting harmonica playing and the latest touch of a DJ scratching along to the music. No other band can get away with it but somehow in their ultimate wisdom MINISTRY really make it work.
Then came the onslaught that my ears would not forgive me or the band for anytime in the near future. Following the latest installment of the sample laden instrumental series stretching back to “Psalm 69” with “TV5/4Chan”, the twin guitar assault of Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto alongside Tony Campos on bass, drummer Derek Abrams and a keyboardist that needs no introduction Mr. John Bechdel blew the roof off the dump with a decade plus of new millennium MINISTRY. The brain crushing onslaught of “Punch in the Face”, “Senor Peligro”, “LiesLiesLies” and title track “Rio Grande Blood” was a lesson in the very very fast and heavy MINISTRY. Burton returned to the stage to handle vocals of two more new politically charged tunes “We’re Tired of It” and “Wargasm” before the band performed one more newbie, the lead single “Antifa”.
Just when I thought the crowds senses couldn’t possibly be capable of handling more they ripped into some old classics that brought everyone to their feet. “N.W.O.” was followed by “Thieves” and then came the big surprise of the year, something that nobody could have expected, and shame on you “in case you didn’t feel like showing up”, Revolting Cocks alum Chris Connelly joined Al’s wall of sound for a rousing rendition of ” So What”. I honestly found myself fighting back the tears.
Two encores would follow which were also two surprises “Bad Blood” and “Psalm 69” topped off the most incredible night of heavy music I’ve heard in ages. I told my photographer Dale Patrick Bennett and meant it, “it doesn’t get any better than this” though I doubt he heard me over the ringing in his ears. – alex zander
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