Review by Gary Hamil for MPM
Seem like Milwaukee has been my go city for concerts in 2023, but that is not a bad thing. Any venue I have been to is easy to get in and out of and the hospitality of the staff at every venue I have been to has been phenomenal.
Tonight’s show featuring Ministry with Gary Numan and Front Line Assembly in support brings me back to The Rave/Eagles Ballroom. As I have stated in previous reviews, this is one of my favorite venues because of the multiple rooms for performances and the wide musical range of genre’s they bring in.
First up tonight is Canadian electronic industrial band Front Line Assembly. The band was formed in 1986 by Bill Leeb (vocals) after leaving Skinny Puppy. Currently the band consists of Leeb along with Rhys Fulber on keyboards, programming, and percussion. Joining them onstage is Jon Siren on drums, and Tim Skold (formerly of KFMDM, Shotgun Messiah, Marilyn Manson, etc.) on guitar. From 1987 to 2021, Front Line Assembly has released 17 full-length albums along with several singles.
As the lights fade out, Siren and Fulber are on stage. Siren begins pounding out a beat while Fulber plays and eerie riff on the keyboards. Various images flash on the video screen behind them. They joined shortly, by Skold and Leeb as they play the opening notes of I.E.D from the 2010 album Improvised Electronic Device. This draws a great reaction from the crowd, and we are off and running.
As Front Line Assembly progresses through their set, they play songs from 1992 through 2013, even throwing and a cover of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus. Leeb marches back and forth in an almost spider-like way, while Skold engages the crowd and drawing huge reactions by raising his guitar which has MILWAUKEE painted across the bottom.
It is a short seven song set, but as the crowd funnels in throughout the set, we are more than warmed up for the night ahead!
Front Line Assembly Set List: I.E.D – Killing Grounds – Plasticity – Rock Me Amadeus – Deadened – Mindphaser – Millennium
By now, the venue has mostly filled as the lights fade again for Gary Numan! Numan got his start in 1979 and has not stopped to this day. Over his solo career, he has released 21 albums spanning multiple genres including electronic, new wave, industrial rock, electronic, industrial, and post punk.
As the lights go out, a low hum emerges from the speakers as red lights slowly come up on stage. Videos of the sun, fires, and nuclear explosions are displayed on the video screen as Numan and the band walk onstage together.
Guitarist Steve Harris and bassist Tim Slade rip into the opening chords of Intruder, from the 2021 album of the same name. Both with shaved heads and dressed in what appears to be Egyptian style robes. They almost appear to be floating across the stage as Numan steps up to the microphone and begins to sing. As he does, he waves his arms around and contorts his body into some very awkward looking positions. But this draws a huge pop from the crowd as many try to mimic the moves themselves.
Barely speaking through the entire set, the mix of music spans his entire career and includes songs from every genre. Next is Halo, from the Jagged (2006) album. With an industrial beat, this gets the crowd dancing. Numan prances back and forth across the stage, raising his arms at various point throughout that get a great response from the crowd.
Numan dons a guitar for the next song where he takes us back to the post punk era, with 2006 release Pure from the album of the same name. Harris and Slade continue to drift back and forth, stopping to engage the crowd with menacing gazes. The crowd reacts with hands in the air mimicking the drums and banging their heads in true rock star fashion.
The show continues on like this until about mid-set, when Numan takes us back to 1979 with the song that started it all, Cars from the album, The Pleasure Principle. By far, the biggest crowd reaction of the night as Numan, Harris, and Slade jump and spin all around the stage. At every break in the lyrics, the lights come up to show the whole crowd dancing and clapping along with this all-too-familiar classic!
As we approach the last few songs of the set, and again without a lot of talk, Numan and the band break into The Chosen with a drum and bass battle. The song has an Egyptian tone which is echoed by Numan’s vocals. The crowd cheers and sways back and forth with the “not slow, but not fast”, rhythm of the song. Numan contorts his body into all kinds of awkward positions as he works his way through the song.
For the final song of the night, Numan once again dons his guitar as the eerie opening to A Prayer for the Unborn pounds through the speakers. With a new wave sounds with a lot of keyboards, he waves his guitar around like he is handling a samurai sword. The crowd sways along and claps and cheers as the song builds. As we come to the end of the song, he raises his guitar high above his head, taps it a few times as though he is applauding and thanks everyone for coming out. A great ending to a very impressive set.
Gary Numan Set List: Intruder – Halo – Pure – Everything Comes Down to This – Metal – Here in the Black – Cars – Haunted – Love Hurt Bleed – The Chosen – My Name is Ruin – A Prayer for the Unborn
Ministry was founded as an American Industrial rock band in 1981, by singer/guitarist/producer Al Jourgensen. Throughout their career, they have released 15 studio albums, with their 16th, Hopium For the Masses due later in 2023. The band has gone through multiple members over the years, with Jourgensen being the only original member left. The current lineup includes Cesar Soto and Monte Pittman on guitars, Paul D’Amour on bass, Roy Mayorga on drums, and John Bechdel on keyboards.
As the lights go out drawing a huge pop from the crowd, the stage fills with smoke. Death Toll is heard over the speakers as the band walks onstage and begins to play the first notes of Alert Level. Jourgensen saunters onstage and raises his arms drawing a huge roar from the crowd as he begins to sing. As they get to the chorus, he begins a back-and-forth with crowd, yelling “Let’s get ready”.
The crowd repeats. At the final line of the chorus everyone in the room yells “Get ready to die”. We are off and running.
The first 5 songs of the night are all off the 2021 release,” Moral Hygiene”. They include the above-mentioned Alert Level, Good Trouble, Disinformation, Believe Me, and Broken System. The whole time Jourgensen doesn’t so much pace around the stage; but floats around the stage, often coming to the front to engage the crowd and get everyone yelling, cheering, and singing along. At the same time, Soto, Pittman, and D’Amour take turns coming to the front of the stage or cross the stage to engage the crowd and keep everyone’s attention fixed to the show.
We get our first break in the music as Jourgensen tells everyone “You have been so patient listening to the old shit. We know you paid the big bucks to hear the old shit.” This drew a huge cheer from the crowd. He laughs and says, “Well we are going to play one more new one, f**k you” with a huge grin on his face. He announces that the song is from the forthcoming album Hopium for the Masses and is called “Goddamn White Trash”. The new music gets massive approval from the crowd which appears to please the entire band.
After a short chat with the audience Jourgensen says that’s enough of the new “hippie shit” and that its time for some old ones. As the guitar tech hands him a guitar, he announces that this one is New World Order (N.W.O) which by-far draws the biggest response of the night. A mosh pit opens in the middle of the floor and everyone else is jumping up and down to the fast rhythm of the song.
We go through the rest of the night with tons of headbanging, moshing, and jumping around as Ministry rounds out the set with more songs from the mid to late 80’s with songs off the albums Psalm 69, Land of Rape and Honey, and The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. The crowd is spent, but chanting for more. They get their wish as the lights come back up and the band re-enters the stage.
Jourgensen says they are now going to do a cover of Fad Gadget’s Ricky’s Hand. But to help them with the song they are bringing out the “big guns” and welcomes Gary Numan back to the stage which is clearly ok with everyone in attendance. Jourgensen moves across the stage, crouching over the crowd as he sings each verse.
Numan stays to the opposite side of the stage and sings backups through the whole song. As the last note plays, Jourgensen says “Goodnight Milwaukee!” as he and Numan walk off the stage. The rest of the band comes to the front, waving good night to the crowd as they toss out drumsticks and guitar picks.
It has been a long time since I have seen Ministry live, and I had never seen Gary Numan before tonight. Needless to say, Ministry has lost nothing over the years and can still rock with the best of them. Gary Numan has been around a while too, but after seeing his performance tonight, it only makes me regret not seeing him sooner. It was a great night!