God love John Mellencamp for trying to bring politics to the center stage by forming a legion of über-rock artists and embarking on a nationwide tour to promote voter registration. Unfortunately, straight talk and stern yet cautious diplomacy just aren’t strong enough. In fact, despite his admirable intentions, if you combined Mellencamp’s heartland hits, his political message and a dollar, you could get a cup of coffee but not much more.
For those who lean to the left, it seems that extreme times call for extreme messages, and it’s clear that Ministry’s Al Jourgensen is more capable in this role than any of his peers. Those in attendance at Ministry’s Sept. 17 show at the Ogden Theatre got that message loud and clear the instant Al took the stage.
Donning a “Fuck Bush” shirt, Al opened things up by proceeding to beat the crap out of some hapless goof hired to wear a Bush mask and play the part of America’s dubious Dubya. Sure, the ass-whipping itself was all in jest, but when set to the ever rampant and raucous power and pace of Ministry’s blistering drums and guitars, the scene prompted more than just a few folks to pump their fists in approval.
Oh, Al has been down this road before. Same shit, different Bush. Fans will no doubt recall George Sr. making an appearance on Ministry’s early ‘90s hit “N.W.O.” And in the wake of what some perceive to be the Democratic party’s inability to fight fire with fire, Al was recently quoted as saying that’s where he comes in, and that he has no problem being brutal.
Jourgensen & Co. were certainly that, blasting through a feverish set that included pretty much what you would expect from a band that has been continually blurring the line between metal, industrial and politics for more than two decades. Over the course of an hour, Ministry plowed through old gems, side-project material and cuts from its new, politically charged album Houses of the Molé, spending little time resting between songs. No surprise that songs like “Just One Fix” and “Thieves” prompted the most visible reaction from the sold-out crowd.
To accent the aural assault, the ubiquitous visual show flashed in the background, further reinforcing the message of the evening. Images coupled with phrases like “Murdered By Machismo” put an exclamation point on a night that clearly had one purpose – incite action. And lest ye think Al was all rhetoric and no beef, he has been very clear from the start that his intention was to rally the troops and increase voter registration. As such, representatives were on hand to do just that.
Of course, the evening wasn’t a complete political blood bath. The ever-kooky camp and hazy haunts of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult raised the collective temperature and prepped fans for what was to be a stifling-hot evening at Chez Ogden. Although the band clearly missed an opportunity to treat fans to one of its better live performance, the erstwhile purveyors of B-flick go-go horror still managed to scrounge up a set of songs and cinema that would make the late Russ Meyer proud.
Photos by Dave Haucke