Event: Ministry, Gary Numan, (equal time)
Supporting act: Front Line Assembly
Date: April 21, 2023
Venue: The Union Event Center
City: Salt Lake City, Utah
So, as long as any of us can remember, we all got into Ministry maybe a song or two, but REALLY got into them in 1989-1990. WHY? Well, that was when Ministry had their breakthrough album “The Mind Is a Terrible Thin To Taste”. The shows on that tour were legendary, and have since solidified Ministry as a MUST-SEE for all industrial music fans.
Before we all fell in love with Ministry, we were already devout fans of the new wave synth god Gary Numan, not just for his epic song “Cars” but that he had just been making great music since the late 70s, and we all bought his albums just because, well, we knew there was so much more to this guy than “Cars” and we were right.
So, imagine all of our delight to catch both of these bands who have been making outstanding music for 40 years, on the same stage. This tour has been something rather sensational, or at least this night was one of those more incredible nights.
Opening the night (at barely 6:45 pm) was Vancouver Canada’s Front Line Assembly, veterans in their own right, they are a fantastic way to start the evening off. They were tight, and very interactive with the audience. The guitarist had “SALT LAKE CITY” painted on his instrument, and he was playing it, tight up to his chest, almost vertically at times. The main drummer was standing at a very scaled-down drum kit, and was wearing a masque, that, well, could have been worn for an apocalyptic look effect, or just a covid precaution, either way, it was badass. They opened with “Angriff” and you just felt the real guitar lines pounding through the PA system as the guitarist was whipping his white dreads around, almost looking like that scene in Jedi when Luke took off Darth Vader’s helmet.
I caught the first 3 songs in the pit, and as I was leaving, they enlightened us all to the point that we were going to be having 80s new wave hits on the menu. They did this by playing a cover of Falco’s 85 hit “ROCK ME AMADEUS”. I will be honest, I was never a huge fan of that song, I love Falco’s other work, I lived in Germany for several years, and he is revered as a musical God to the Germans. However, this evening, and the way Front Line Assembly delivered it, IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. The lead singer also played drums off the original drummer, just for some great effects.
Front Line Assembly set the mood for the rest of the night, and the only complaint I had about their set was its brevity, really we all could have easily enjoyed four or five more from them. Tight, intense, and fun, but only 7 songs, closed out with “Mindphaser”.
As the switch out for Gary Numan was happening on stage, the venue was almost full, and the gaps in the crowd were getting smaller. Why? BECAUSE IT’S GARY NUMAN THAT’S WHY.
I have been shooting at this venue for years, and the only time I have ever seen it packed to the doors was for Echo & The Bunnymen last year. Now, well, I guess there was enough draw, cause you couldn’t fit a razorblade between the punters this night. The final count from the bouncers was just short of 4 thousand.
As the stage went dark again, there were plenty of strobes flashing and the band took the stage, again looking like a dystopian post-apocalyptic movie, but more like Krishna monks.
They started with a throbbing humming keyboard line, straight out of the engine room of a large starship. Then the drumming commenced, the slow pounding of “Intruder” from the new album of the same name, while the band cranked up the atmosphere with their guitars and keyboards. Then the spotlight was on Gary as the stage lit up, and he began to take us through this set. He was dressed like he has been in the last several years, looking like a survivor of a space-age apocalypse with painted tribal red lines going down his face, almost like tiger claw marks. Only, cooler.
He gave us “Halo” and “Pure”, as we were expecting them for the evening. Gary Numan has put out so much music over the years, and the genres have all kind of mixed and clashed. Though these songs might have been written in the last 20 years, they sound as fresh and current in the direction Gary has wanted to go, a long way since the magnificent albums “Dance”, or “New Anger”, Gary seems to have found a sound that makes him very happy, and, thus, he manages to make us all very happy too.
He laid out the epic “My Jesus” from the album “Pure” and we still can’t believe it was released in 2001, and still has “It”.
I am amazed at the amount of energy he has on stage after going on 50 years, starting with the Tubeway Army back in the 1970s. Gary was swinging the mic stand around, playing different guitars for each song, jumping back to the keyboards to play, he was all over that stage, while his guitarists and bassist were just as animated. I got up close and can say that the man has not aged. He looks like he did when I first met him almost 30 years ago.
He gave us “CARS” and that was his new wave hit contribution to the evening, everyone was expecting it, but he could have played another 40 songs in its place and gotten no complaints. Gary is mechanical, and powerful and makes sure to deliver all he has.
With “The Chosen” and “My Name is Ruin”, especially live, you can see there is a totally different stage persona than say his “Blade Runner influenced” epic live album “The Skin Mechanic” from the “New Anger” tour. Gary Numan has so much to choose from for his live sets, and when he plays something from even the 70s, his electronic metal sound puts a fantastic new “edginess” to the music that always feels like it was released last month, and you are hearing it for the first time.
I have seen Gary Numan many times over the years, from Paris in 1998, to Boston in 2001, to the recent set of shows he has played here in Salt Lake. He knows that he will always sell out the venue in Salt Lake City, because of his rabid fan base here. Could I say this was the best performance that I have ever seen? No, is it the worst? No, I really can’t gauge them, they have all been at the same level of spectacular. (Though he insists that the Paris gig I saw really was not very good, I LOVED that night, and since I’m the one writing the review, I’m right). You will get the best live show Gary Numan has to offer if you saw him performing “Telekon” in 1981, or “Intruder” this week.
After seeing a band like this eleven times over 33 years, one can appreciate the fact that no matter what Al Jourgensen has come up with, he is still full of surprises.
I have come to expect insanely loud, fun, crazy industrial metal with great social commentary sucker punched in a vegan eggplant sandwich right between your eyes.
The Stage was adorned with the “industrial Grade Steel ” Metal Cross, lit up like one of those back alley way churches serving the less fortunate in a poor part of down town. It has kind of become the token image for Ministry shows the last few tours. It even has a pulpit for Al with several mics mounted to it. Yeah, after all it is “MINISTRY” . The band took the stage with AL coming in late making a fashionable entrance while they opened with “Alert Level”. Now, I have known Al’s work to be often loaded with sarcasm, and this evening was no exception. Maybe his being a general cynic, or skeptic, or just funny, but he was playing over the speech by the jaw-dropping idiot “GIVE ME MILLIONS OF DOLLARS” personality the “On Air” preacher Kenneth Copeland, you know the guy who says god wants him to have really expensive airplanes to preach the word? That guy. Well, Al managed to splice into his first couple of songs the Kenneth Copeland speeches where he declared by the word of god that “Covid Shall be Banished from God’s Earth”. I remembered watching that speech and thinking “What a freaking LUNATIC” and then here we are 2 years later, and Ministry has that same speech as the background track for the new album. That was enough reason to go to this show, the sheer wit behind it had me smiling through the song while I got photos.
Pieces from the same sound bytes were playing into song two, “Good Trouble” off the recent album “Moral Hygiene”, then they played “Disinformation”. Leaving the pit Al said “Hey everyone, we are going to do a cover of an Iggy Pop tune, called “Search and Destroy”. I yelled at Al “And Yesterday was Iggy’s Birthday even..” Al Smiled and said off the mic, “YEAH”. They played a cool version of the classic, I mean, we all LOVE IGGY.
I got up to the balcony and they played “Believe Me” which was bizarre because the background graphics were like a psychedelic trip trying to hypnotize ya. They gave us “Broken System” which had graphics of AR-15s and various political figures flashing up on the wall behind them. The token message, is that you don’t need to ask “What does he mean by this?”.
He said “This is the 2nd time we have ever played this one, and I’m sure you’ll like it” and they gave us the song “Goddamn White Trash”. Now, whatever you expect from Ministry in a song like this, you would be right. Flashing pics of the KKK, visuals of NAZI icons, and just general redneck culture, Ministry’s disdain for all things TRUMP were present in this song… and he was right, we did like it, a lot. During this part, a woman who had been in the pit with us taking pictures with her phone, and obviously part of the tour, walked onto the stage with an acoustic guitar and played in with the band her name Ani Kyd Wolf (a favorite artist over on Alternative Tentacles and plays in the band THOR). Her contribution was great when the stage got crowded for a few songs.
By then the mosh pit was insane, and Al was thrilled to be feeding off everyone’s energy, and the feeling was mutual from the punters.
Al said, “Ok, you have all been patient and great for this new stuff, we’ll give you all some of what you came here for.” They broke into “N.W.O.”, then “Just One Fix” and then “Burning Inside”. Imagine the video from the “In Case You Didn’t Bother Showing Up” performance in 1990, well, it was just as fun and crazy, with a crowd of punters several times that size. Al stopped to thank us all and say “I don’t know what it is about you in Salt Lake, but you are one of the top 4 most enjoyable cities to play for”. As he continued goading everyone having a good time, while he was giving a very tight, and solid performance.
After they tied it up with “So What” on an encore, he said, “Really, you people are the craziest fans ever, I just love playing here”. They walked off stage, and then after a minute or so, the house lights came up, and then people started to leave. Then Al ran back out on stage and grabbed the mic “NO !!!! DON’T LEAVE YET!!!!”. He explained that they had one more to play, and asked them to turn the lights off, and everything ramped up again. Al was NOW going to give us his 1980s new wave contribution, he said “This is our cover of a 1980s new wave song by a band called “FAD GADGET” called “Ricky’s Hand”. This was as far as I know the first time they have played this since 1986, and thus, the punters were thrilled.
They finished the cover, Al and everyone waved and said “Good night” and the event came to a close. I talked to the guitarist for a few minutes, he has been on previous tours, and he said they were having a lot of fun changing all of this out for this tour. I have always seen Al Jourgensen as a hard-partying, intense, and sometimes over-the-top guy. You always know where he is coming from, and he has had more humor and just good times vibes in his performances lately, that you just enjoy the whole experience. After a ministry show, you feel some sort of euphoria having released all kinds of negative feelings and energy because the music does that for you.
All in all, this was one of the best Ministry gigs I have ever seen. I hope you all can get into one soon, the merch table was getting sacked, and even the Front Line Assembly stuff was running short by the end of the night, once you see any of the bands on this tour, you will know why.