Ministry – Mandela Hall, Belfast 17 July 2012

The irony was not lost on many present. It was two days short of being exactly four years since industrial metal titans Ministry had played what frontman Al Jourgensen had insisted would be the band’s “last ever” live show – just 100 miles down the road in the Irish capital of Dublin. (In fact, if a second night had not been added back in 2008, the next evening’s gig in the same city would have taken place on the exact date of that supposed historic anniversary!) And yet, here we all were again… albeit a couple of hours’ drive further north, to witness the ‘return’: but, would it be a triumphant one, especially given the less than warm reception which ‘comeback’ album ‘Relapse’ had generated, both among critics and fans alike?

The answer, unfortunately, is ‘not quite’. In fact, things started badly right from the off: as the houselights went down, and the red disco lights started to run up and down Al Jourgensen’s characteristic skull and bone encrusted pulpit-style microphone stand, one of the two massive screens straddling the stage lay idle. An omen of things to come?

The rhythm section of drummer Aaron Rossi and new recruit Casey Orr were undoubtedly tight, and rhythm guitarist Sin Quirin was undoubtedly enjoying himself, constantly throwing horns and grinning from ear to ear. Mike Scaccia seemed lost in a world of his own, churning out riffs and solos with somewhat less-than-enthusiastic efficiency, while Jourgensen himself appeared to be merely going through the motions, coming off with all the usual pat lines about “this is our first time in Belfast but I fucking love you people already” and “you people are fucking insane”, but there was just something machine-like about the whole thing. Yes, he jumped into the photopit at the end of the main set to shake hands and kiss female audience members – which obviously went down very well… as did, it must be said, the two-hour set with the diehard Ministry crowd.

However: three anti-George W Bush tirades in the first four songs were inappropriate and, to be brutally honest, boring. ‘LiesLiesLies’ did come across well, and with the first hint of enthusiasm from both the frontman and his erstwhile sidekick, while it took ’99 Percenters’ to really hit the mark. However, the second half of the main set dragged, with only ‘Relapse’ and ‘The Last Sucker’ breathing any form of life into it.

It must be said that the encore was the most entertaining part of the evening: with Jourgensen first having to correct himself when he introduced ‘New World Order’ as Scaccia cranked out the opening riff to ‘Psalm 69’ – and then refusing to continue until he got a joint (much to the play acted chagrin of his roadcrew and eventually, predictably, tossed onto the stage), before proceeding to bring the house down with ‘One Last Fix’ and ‘So What’, after which the frontman appeared to stumble, presumably stoned off stage, before returning for a second curtain call and a competent and suitably angry version of SOD’s ‘United Forces’.

Photograph by Darren Boyd.

About Mark Ashby

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