Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
European Summer festival season is upon us, and despite numerous notable attempts to organize one here, Irish revelers must still travel to the UK or mainland Europe to attend such events large enough to attract big-name headliners. Those without the means or motivation to do so are always grateful when touring bands find time to play club gigs on our shores in between arena dates, and considerable hype has been building since industrial metal legends Ministry announced tonight’s show with support from Chelsea Wolfe.
A respectable crowd has already congregated in the Tivoli Theatre when we arrive just in time to catch the dark atmospheric opening by the Californian musician. Chelsea Wolfe has been on the scene for almost a decade, refusing to be tied down to any single genre, but categorized by some as doom folk. After battling with extreme stage fright in early live appearances, her shyness is still evident tonight in her body language and almost non-existent interaction with the audience, but this modesty ultimately magnifies the mysticism of her evocative performance. Opening with ‘Carrion Flowers’ which featured in trailers for Fear the Walking Dead TV series, the setlist spans her four most recent albums (of six, if you include her first, which was never officially released). Very quickly, the crowd swells to near maximum capacity levels, and while they do little more than nod their heads, it is clear that most are engaged and soaking up the moody vibes amplified by the low-end rumblings and haunting vocalizations. Having never seen Chelsea perform before tonight, we weren’t sure what to expect, especially as a warm-up for an industrial band like Ministry. Were we impressed? Sure. Was this the best choice for support? Perhaps not. But it seemed like both acts each had their own fans, and maybe they got to experience something new tonight.
For those that are here to see “Uncle Al” Jourgensen, the changeover seems to take an eternity, but piece by piece the stage is transformed into the appropriate setting for a Ministry show. Huge backdrop screen? Check. Microphone stand adorned with the human skull? Check. Two giant inflatable chickens that bear an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump and labeled with anti-Nazi logos? Check. When the house lights finally dim, ‘I Know Words’, the opening track to the latest Ministry offering AmeriKKKant, sets the tone (musically and politically) for the night. The distorted delusional declarations of “the leader of the free world” accompany recorded samples as drummer Derek Abrams eggs on the excited crowd before Jourgensen takes to his microphones for vocal duties. The only constant member of the pioneering industrial metal band since its inception as a synth-pop outfit in 1981, Uncle Al emerges sporting a fluffy white waistcoat, Lennon shades, and enough facial piercings to shame any rebellious goth teenager. Guitarist Cesar Soto performs the first two numbers wearing a glowing Guy Fawkes mask (now more widely associated with the online hacktivist group Anonymous) beside hooded bassist Tony Campos, a familiar face to fans of Prong, Soulfly and Fear Factory to name a few.
It’s been just over six years since Ministry last played in Ireland, and in that time, there have been two new albums, AmeriKKKant and From Beer to Eternity. While it’s not surprising that Jourgensen has chosen to favor his latest material, the general consensus among fans in attendance is that they would rather hear more from the back catalog. Having said that, new tracks like ‘Wargasm’ and ‘Antifa’ really get the crowd riled up, with moshpits and crowdsurfers keeping the security staff on their toes. The energy levels in the audience and on stage remain high throughout the show and there are plenty of moments when fans have the opportunity to sing along. Jourgensen offers the microphone to the front row fans during ‘Lies Lies Lies’ shortly before one of the two inflatable chickens breaks free and ends up crowd surfing before being quickly deflated in the pit and rescued by members of the road crew. “One down, one to go” jokes Al.
Throughout the night the big screen portrays flashing imagery of political unrest interspersed with a live video feed from the microphone stand and into the audience. Glimpses of the anarchy in the moshpits confirm that this has been one of the most energetic shows in the Tivoli for some time, and the finale of fan favorites’ Psalm 69′ and ‘Bad Blood’ ensures that everyone leaves exhausted and satisfied. Even after nearly four decades, Ministry is still a force to be reckoned with. Don’t miss the opportunity to see them again.