Lauded as “the loudest band in the world,” Al Jourgensen’s Ministry came to the Vic last Friday night in a rare Chicago appearance to blow out some eardrums and kick out some classics. Since their farewell tour in 2008, Ministry seemed well into their retirement until lo and behold, a new album, Relapse, was released this past March. Some diehard fans bought tickets for the Chicago tour date a year in advance. I went in as a Ministry newbie, and I don’t know if I came away a fan, exactly, but I did come away impressed.
In the intimate setting of the Vic Theatre, Jourgensen and the band railed out head-banging anthems like “So What” and “No W.” Newer songs like “99%” continue the political commentary the band is known for. Jourgensen dedicated “99%” to the Occupy movement, closing the song with an affectionate “Keep up the good work, Occupiers!” Songs were accompanied by brainwash-style flashing-subliminal-images videos, completing the sensory overload. Frequent breaks became necessary for my unprepared brain, and I took shelter by crouching behind a tall guy.
But the evening’s low point was not these moments of total overstimulation: Rather, it was the opening band’s performance. Murmurs and sidelong glances among audience members around me affirmed what I tried not to write in my notes: Blackburner wasn’t impressing anybody. Sure, they were wearing evil bunny costumes and had enough smoke machines to stock a Halloween outlet for decades. “But they only picked up their guitars once in an hour set,” complained one fan to his merch-covered friend. “They’re just DJs who kind of look like an evil deadmau5,” said another.
But the true fans who waited through (or arrived after) the opener experienced a not-to-be-missed show. After having our eardrums properly assaulted, we left with newly developed tinnitus and a smug sense of satisfaction knowing that this show would be talked about. “It’s a rare chance to see them before they retire for real,” said Ministry fan Troy Roberson. I’m glad I was there.