Live at The Fonda Theatre
December 21st, 2018
Review and photos by Travis Baumann
Ministry is to industrial music what Black Sabbath is to metal. The founding godfathers of the genre that set the tone and pace for the generations and decades to come. Through ups and downs that included the tragic passing of members and the very near death of the main man himself, Al Jourgensen, the band has maintained its poignancy and intent. For that we should be both joyful and ashamed that in thirty plus years the world has not only failed to improve but perhaps is sliding faster towards the abyss than ever.
Since their transformation from a synth-pop mainstream band to psycho-thrash-industrial-misfits in the mid 1980's, their voice of political dissent and antifacism has been resolute. Slamming against global corruption, greed, and political agendas that leave the people in jeopardy has been the focal point of their albums and the latest release, "AmeriKKKant" continues this message.
Tonight was a special presentation, the second of showcase hometown shows, and the final cap of an extended touring spree in support of the latest release. Joining Al on stage was Sin Quirin on guitar, Tony Campus on bass guitar, Cesar Soto on guitar, John Bechdel on keyboards, and Derek Abrams on drums.
The performance was broken in to two segments. The first portion featured "AmericKKKant" played in its entirety in the order as it appears on the album.
From the opening intro of "I Know Words" built from samples of dialog from a current demagogue, the album places its intent firmly in the face of the current global regimes but most defiantly in that of our own home, America.
It states that we are living in the "Twilight Zone" where fact is fiction and everything is labeled as "fake news". The set continues to show that many are now "Victims of a Clown" and "We're Tired of It".
Endless war has made the country and its leaders susceptible to "Wargasm" but some will not be bullied or mislead. They are not "snowflakes", they are the "Antifa". However, it also illustrates that if something is not done, it will be "Game Over", whether via the third world war or mother nature itself that turns on mankind.
The final piece of this segment came with the albums title track "Amerikkka". Presenting the facts that the nation is divided and racism is still prevalent and fueling hatred and anger in the country. Fear-mongering is building that sense of "us and them" and digging that divide all the deeper.
The band left the stage briefly as the audience cheered. They quickly returned and began the second portion of the set which was any long-time Ministry fan's dream.
Al introduced each song, starting by saying that the next song came out over thirty years ago and nothing has changed. "Land of Rape and Honey" was a seminal album upon its release, presenting a mutated sound of electronics, distortion, and blistering lyrics charged with a post apocalyptic prophetic vision of where mankind is headed.
Giving the audience a massive dose of this album they continued with "The Missing" and "Deity". For years I have been attending Ministry shows and I cannot remember hearing either of these songs live for over twenty years if not more.
"Stigmata" has always been the hit from this album and has appeared as an encore or featured in the set lists of quite a few tours over the years, but hearing it in context with three other favorites from this album really made it all the more sweet. The audience sang along as the signature guitar riffs and drums beats reminded everyone why this song has remained the industrial main-stay that it is.
"Psalm 69" was Ministry's biggest commercial success and featured two singles that received substantial air-time on radio and MTV. "Just One Fix" and "N.W.O." garnered an appropriately huge response from the amassed crowd as they sang along and moshed in the circle pit.
1989 saw the release of perhaps one of the most influential albums for me personally with "The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste". This release saw the combination of musicians at the right moment in their career to hit upon the perfect combination of artistry, invention, vision, and motivation. Political commentary was underlying every lyric but the ambiguity in which it was phrased allowed the songs to become about personal growth and the world around us individually so that it cemented itself into our psyche.
Ministry performed "Thieves" which was aggressively thrashy; a punkish bull-headed bullet of distorted guitars, blasting percussion, and "fuck you" lyrics aimed at all of the lying leaders of society, whether they be corrupt politicians, hypocritical religious zealots, or selfish and greedy business tycoons.
Al introduced the next song by saying "It was written twenty five years ago and spoke of the need for gun control. Now Mr. Christopher Connelly has flown out from Chicago to let us know, we still need gun control". Chris came out and they performed what had become an anthem for us back in the day, "So What". It was amazing getting to see Chris and Al on stage together doing this song justice after so many years of listening to it.
For most stops on the tour the audience not only did not get to see Chris perform, this song was the finale of the night. Instead of saying goodbye, the band left the stage but quickly returned with acoustic instruments and a few guests. Dave Navaro and Dan Cleary came out on guitar and bass guitar. Derek switched to bongos and Chris Connelly and Cesar sang the backup.
Al said, "Now that we are tired of doing all that old shit we are going to do something even older. We were going to only do it the first night here in Los Angeles but it worked so well, we thought we would do it again." They performed "(Every Day is) Halloween" which according to Ministry had never been played live before the night prior. It was really well done and an awesome way to finish out the night.
Al thanked everyone for coming and that he was so glad to be back home in Los Angeles. He waved good night and they bid adieu leaving everyone in a very jubilant state right before the holidays.
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