Friday, May 02, 2008

Ministry at The Fillmore NY / Irving Plaza

I didn't like Ministry's last album. I didn't dislike it either, and I still have the copy I got for the review I wrote, but The Last Sucker is no Psalm 69, or Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, or Land of Rape and Honey (Al sure does cook up some great album titles, doesn't he?). For this reason alone I was a little disappointed when I saw the set list from Ministry's final tour: a disappointment written by the preponderance of Bush Trilogy song selections and then sealed by the news that openers Meshuggah would be playing a paltry 35 minutes because of an impingement in the drummer's shoulder.

That's the great thing about low expectations, though: they're so very easy to surpass. I'm pretty sure Meshuggah played 45 minutes, for example, treating us all to the unexpected delight of watching musicians head bang in synchronization to different time signatures: the singer in a half-time four, the guitarists in whatever weird compound time signature they were playing in. It's very impressive to see, but I figured out the band's secret: I happened to spend their set a few feet back from the venue's computer-equipped soundboard, and noticed that their engineer had inserted a digital plug in Dark Essence into the mix. In absence of further evidence, I will assume that Meshuggah uses Dark Essence to insert the proper amount of distilled digital evil into their music. Highlight of the set: finishing the night with a face-melting version of "Future Breed Machine" that inspired one drunk patron - a gentleman with a shaved head and a long camouflaged skirt (Army/Navy surplus, no doubt) who'd been boosting himself up onto the barrier separating the sound and video engineers from us mere mortals all during the set and screaming, "Fuck the mainstream!" - to start an impromptu pit with two young women who were otherwise happily engaged in not moshing. He missed, one of them fell, and the other kicked him in the ribs until someone else dragged him off. It was a good scene.

But I mentioned about a year ago that KMFDM / Pig in 2003 was one of the loudest shows I've ever been to. After seeing Ministry - incidentally the first industrial / industrial metal show I've seen since those far-off Boston days - I have a theory: when it comes to ear-splitting intensity, keyboards > guitars. Seeing Ministry live, with all volume knobs set to eleven, sound clips and weird synth sounds and pure noise pouring out of the keyboards, and buzzsaw guitar riffs cutting holes in the sonic atmosphere made even the new material sound very kick ass, and when the band pulled out the classic material for the encore, the show made the transition into Experience, melding hipsters, metalheads, and gearheads into one seething mass, all screaming "So what!" at the tops of their lungs, all moving at the behest of the guy up front with the black dreadlocks, Ozzy Osbourne sunglasses, and top hat.

After my friends and I skipped out before the second encore (replete with covers) ruined the evening, we passed other concert goers on the street speculating about the seriousness of the announcement of Ministry's purported demise. After that night, I don't think there's any question: if the goal is go out on a high note, this concert seals the deal. Ministry may be dead, but they sure as hell went out with a bang.

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