Review - Ministry & Death Grips @ the Warfield (11/5/17)

Kevin Keating
Al Jourgensen of Ministry (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Last night at the Warfield, a battle brewed between the legendary industrial powerhouse, Ministry, with the relative newcomers, and hometown favorites, Death Grips, in a co-headlining bill for the metal ages. Death Grips, a 3-piece band out of Sacramento, have been producing what's been described as hip-hop industrial metal since 2010. By comparison, Al Jourgensen’s Ministry has been around since 1981, and defined industrial metal with the 1988 release of The Land of Rape and Honey (iTunes). The two bands have been on tour together since October, with one more week to go as they swing through California and the southwest. We last caught Ministry on their stop in San Luis Obispo (review here) in July, but this was the first Bay Area stop for the band in several years.
Ministry's Al Jourgensen (Photo: Kevin Keating)
The night kicked off promptly at 8:30pm with MC Ride (vocalist), Zach Hill (drums), and Andy Morin (synths) of Death Grips hitting the stage in complete darkness. As the music began, each member dawned a configuration of wearable green laser pointers that provided the only illumination throughout their entire hour-long set. The performers themselves weren’t visible. The stage was in complete darkness. Only the green lasers shot through the Warfield to provide the electric visual ambiance to the power of the music they were producing. And the crowd went absolutely bezerk. A (largely) young audience moshed and danced throughout their performance and were completely engaged with the band. The energy was palpable and Ministry had to be happy with their choice of openers.
Sin Quirin & Al Jourgensen of Ministry (Photo: Kevin Keating)
At 10pm, Al and his assembled 6-piece backing band hit the stage to show the millennials in the audience what industrial metal was all about. The first half of the roughly 75-minute set was made up of relatively newer material, highlights of which included "Antifa" and "Wargasm"; but it was the second half of the show that was an onslaught of hits that dipped back as far as The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (iTunes) album with show closers -- and my personal favorites -- "Thieves" and "So What." This will give you an idea of the intensity of the night -- just be sure to wait for it to build about a minute into the video below!

But it was the closing encore that solidified Ministry as the legends they are last night. After a quick break, the full band came back out onstage to perform a cover of Devo's "Gates of Steel" with none other than San Francisco native and founding member of the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra, helping Al out on vocals. (Lucky for us, Jello's a local, and has a habit of crashing Bay Area concerts!)

Jello and Al have known each other for years and first started working together on a few of Al's numerous side projects when he was attached to the iconic WaxTrax! Records in the mid-late '80s. Among the conglomerations, Al & Jello's projects included Lard, 1000 Homo DJs (which also included Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails), and the Revolting Cocks -- who will coincidentally be playing the Mezzanine next week, albeit without Al & Jello. It's with this history that made last night's closing number so special, and that its significance was most likely lost on most of the audience in attendance.

Al's body of work is already impressive with Ministry's 14 studio albums -- his most recent will be the 2018 release of AmeriKKKant; but when you take a broader view of his impact alone, it's truly amazing to see how many artists have been influenced by, and worked with, 'Uncle Al'. That said, it's also hard to separate the success of Ministry with that of WaxTrax! Records, the first label Al was signed to in the early 80s before leaving for Sire/WB. A new documentary will debut on the West Coast this week in Los Angeles and will hopefully see broader distribution in 2018 and that chronicles the rise and fall of Chicago's most (in)famous record label. Check out the trailer below and if you'll be in the LA-area this Thursday, click here for more details on the viewing!

We've been fortunate here in the Bay Area to have seen a number of classic industrial-era bands (Thrill Kill Kult, Front 242, KMFDM, En Esch, NIN) come through over the past few weeks alone -- let's hope this is a sign that the Industrial genre is making a comeback and we're already looking forward to Uncle Al's next release!

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Ministry Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA 2017, 2017 North American Tour

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