Less Moshing, More Smiling: Ministry & Gary Numan take on The District

Words and Photos by Grant Wentzel

Utter mayhem. That’s the only way to describe my first go with Ministry decades back. It was an outdoor show, with a swirling pit that turned the field into a band-obscuring dust-devil that you foolishly entered at your own risk. Black-clad bodies bounced out and were tossed in again, hoping for a few seconds of surf above the crush of combat boots.

Tuesday night at The District in Sioux Falls was a tamer affair. The crowd seemed just happy to be there, rhythmically head-bobbing and maniacally grinning to the sonic assault. There was only one guy that got kinda pushy, but the bouncers were on ’em, though they had to do little more than flash their lights and stare him down. He got the message: Grown-ups in Sioux Falls don’t act like that. Sorry sir, won’t happen again.

There was a rumor going around that Al Jourgensen wasn’t touring with Ministry this time out. But that’s like going to see The Dave Matthews Band without Dave Matthews, or Taylor Swift without Taylor Swift. No chance.

I’m glad to report that, 16 facial piercings later, Al’s doing just fine at the age of 65. Kinda cleaner and sober-ish, with thick dreads and a Slash-like top-hat, he took a moment on the mic to let us know he gets it:  

“I know why you’re here, Sioux Falls. You’re here to hear the old shit. But first here’s a new one, ‘Goddamn White Trash’.” 

“Goddamn White Trash,” which I’m assuming makes some sort of nuanced political statement, is set to be the first single off their upcoming album, Hopium for the Masses.

As promised, Al took us back to the simpler times when pappy George H.W. Bush could gin up your paranoia with “N.W.O. (New World Order)” and then ran through some crowd favorites like “Just One Fix” and “Burning Inside.”

Despite a good hour or so of wicked rock, there were some notable exceptions to the set list. Was Al toying with us when they came back out for a one-song encore, launching into a grinding cover of the forgotten proto-industrialist Fad Gadget’s 1980 tune “Ricky’s Hand?” You bet he was. But what else would you want from the guy?

Gary Numan also leaned into his later, darker catalog with “Cars” being the sole obligatory nod to his pioneering 80s synth-pop. As Numan’s guitarist Steve Harris told us after the show, “We wanted to go harder for the Ministry crowd.” That they did. 

Also now 65, Numan could pass for 30. Flanked by ghouls in the form of the apocalyptically-costumed English duo of Steve Harris and Tim Slade (on guitar and bass, respectively) Numan exuded relevance. This was no nostalgia show. 

Also, a shout-out to openers Front Line Assembly, who swept us back into the dark, letting everyone know that the Industrial sound is still cranking, and that machines in motion never rust. 

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