Astoria, London - 8 July, 1999

"Ministry ain't lost it completely yet"

And so, the years roll by and Ministry return to the UK for another gig - there must be another album to promote. And there is - "Dark Side of the Spoon". I'd not heard it but I was't going to let that stop me from seeing possibly the best guitar band to come out of the USA ever since it was created. Would singer/songwriter, old Al Jourgensen, and his pals (whoever they were this time around) still be worth the trouble of a mid-week late night, suffering some dirge-like support band (death metal this time - oh dear - how sad), or submitting one's ears to possible external bleeding? "Yes!" I am happy to reply.

Just as soon as they hit the stage, Ministry proved they can still rock like no other US 'rock' act could ever hope to and their live sound is as perfect as you could realistically hope for. Apart from Germany's Die Krupps, I know of no other guitar-based band that can captivate me like these guys can. As ever, their set wasn't used to drive the new album down your throat (again, unlike their mainstream rock counterparts), providing instead a terrific run through years past and some great albums. "Land of Rape and Honey", "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste", "Psalm 69", "Filthpig" were all represented at some point. Unfortunately most of the tracks off "Land of Rape and Honey" (of which I am a firm fan) were blended together into a doom-laden medley that truncated the individual songs - but I guess it could be argued that it provided good value for money. There were only a couple of songs from the new album and they were restricted to the start, thus enabling the audience to truly go wild on the tracks they knew best as the night went on. The versions of "New World Order" and "Jesus Built My Hotrod" were particularly sharp.

Whilst I'm on the subject of the audience I have to say I've never seen such a rabid bunch of madmen (and women) at a gig before - even by Ministry gig standards. The evening was extremely hot anyway and this made the interior of London's popular Astoria venue almost unbearable. Yet this didn't stop incomprehensible amounts of audience diving, slamdancing etc. etc. Although the bouncers earned every penny of their pay that night they still managed to keep smiling throughout the chaos and regularly sprayed the throbbing hordes with industrial-sized water weapons. Bottles of water were also regularly passed around. Just as well, too. By then end of the one-and-a-half hour set I was close to collapsing - and I was standing at the back, by the bar - a safe distance from the life-threatening dancefloor! Although it was disappointing not to hear "Stigmata" in the encore, it was something of a consolation to hear a driving and lengthy version of "Supernaught" by (Ministry off-shoot) 1,000 Homo DJs.

I think Ministry are past their 'best date' now, but that still puts them leagues ahead of most of their 'competition'. Not sure if I'll buy the new album - I certainly won't without hearing more first, but I don't mind. Ministry have given us over a decade of great, pile-driving, guitar noise and as long as they continue to reflect their glorious past in their live performances, you'll still find me in the audience. Though, I'll no longer be near the front - I wouldn't feel safe anymore. And, somehow, I think that's just what big ol' Al would want to hear me say. Clearly then, Ministry ain't lost it completely yet.

Rob Dyer