By Eric McWhorter
I’ve been a rabid fan of Ministry since the late 1980s, and I’ve seen them a handful of times since we’ve been introduced. Admittedly, my most recent visit to their live show was 1999’s show at The Vic with Acumen Nation. I knew that many of my favorite Ministry songs had long since been culled from the set lists for most of those shows between then and now, so with Al having said that Chicago was in for some older and rarely-played songs, I was looking forward to seeing what they were going to serve up.
During my varied tenure as a Chicago Industrial guitarist, bands I’ve been in have shared stages with fellow Chicago bands Sinister Fate and Fashion Bomb, the former much more recently than the latter. It was great to see Ministry make the decision to keep this show literally all about Chicago, including their choice of openers.
When Ministry took the stage, they did so to a full room of ready recipients. It was easy to see where the band’s hockey alliances lay, as half of them were decked out with Blackhawks gear. The last time I met Al was actually at the release of Keys To The City at the United Center, where he signed my Pailhead No Bunny/I Will Refuse 12” – actually, he drew all over the liner and label, much to my satisfaction.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, greeting the crowd with a trio of songs from the 2013 release From Beer to Eternity, the band opened the show with the first three from the album – Hail to His Majesty, Punch in the Face, and Permawar. The LED board behind them cycled through a cacophony of clips, including a tribute to recently late rock god Lemmy Kilmister behind Hail as they opened. These songs remind me more of early Ministry than much of the stuff from the 2000s, and it was great to hear some of Beer in a live setting. The energy was high, and I was looking forward to the next assault.
Next up from 2006 were Rio Grande Blood and LiesLiesLies, then two from 2004, Waiting, and Worthless. I have always loved playing the main riff on Rio Grande Blood, and getting to watch Sin and Cesar rip it up was great. These songs are decidedly more metal, giving us an opportunity to really thrash. Rossi was ridiculous during this stretch, playing fast and hard and right on time. Tony was all over the stage hammering the bass with precision and nuance.
Right about then, they shifted gears and got in the wayback machine with N.W.O., Just One Fix, and Psalm 69. I was glad to see Al throw on a guitar to get the three-guitar action going, and Bechdel really nailed the samples. I was really wishing my ankle wasn’t sprained, keeping me from really moving much, as I would have really liked to have joined in the shenanigans for the next several songs.
Breathe was next, one of the songs that really hits all the points for me, and which hasn’t seen a playlist in some twenty years. Things got super frisky with The Missing and Deity, and Thieves and So What closed out 2015 on the way to the countdown to midnight. These five songs actually briefly took me back to the UIC Pavilion in 1992 in my mind, a show so emblazoned on my brain as it was 19th birthday and I had my floor seat ripped out by a guy in liberty spikes and boots as big as my head.
After the countdown, the band hit Keys to the City (for the first time live, I believe) on the heels of a Blackhawks victory in OT in Colorado – if only Jim Cornelison had been there to join the band on stage! The evening closed out with the syrupy dirge Khyber Pass, giving us a nice long jam in the same family as Hizbollah from LoRaH or Scarecrow from 69 with a more contemporary Ministry take.
The band was super tight and I could tell that they were having fun, and the set list was a great one-two punch of new and classic Ministry head bashing goodness. Being neurotic for hitting every sample, every change, every riff, every snare, I can say that this New Year’s Eve Ministry show nailed every one of them.
It would have been really great to have seen even more early songs like Land of Rape and Honey, You Know What You Are, or Burning Inside, but listen – I’ve seen some shows of my favorite bands which have been around from the early 1980s and before, and perhaps the only band who’s got as deep a catalog and has done a better job than Ministry did of pleasing new and old fans may have been The Cure – but they usually play twice as long and have way more room than an hour and a half set. If we could get Al to put together a couple of shows like Bob did, where they played classic albums in their entireties, maybe I would be even more satisfied, but I’m not holding my breath.
This was my first time at Concord Music Hall, and I have to say that the sound and the room were fantastic. With almost not a bad sight line in the house, I only had a bit of an issue with sound under the balcony, so I didn’t spend too much time there.
Bottom line, I am really glad I got this chance to spend New Year’s Eve 2015 with a bunch of Industrial loving assholes like me. I really enjoyed the show, and wish it could’ve been longer. Maybe we’ve seen the last of Ministry, maybe not, but if so…I leave satisfied.