Ministry and Gary Numan played Roadrunner – 3/18

The two industrial music heavyweights joined forces for a co-headlining tour with openers Front Line Assembly.


There’s a couple of levels on which the union of Chicago industrial metal vets Ministry and onetime Tubeway Army frontman Gary Numan makes a lot of sense. Both acts got their start in the realm of synthpop way back when before turning towards darker visions (albeit the former more quickly and violently than the latter), and both have maintained cult followings over their respective 40-plus-year histories that show out tour after tour. Numan and Ministry leader Al Jourgensen also share a certain affection for the theatrical, which made Monday night’s Roadrunner show a largely successful meeting of the minds.

Following an effectively menacing opening set from longrunning Canadian electro-industrial/EBM crew Front Line Assembly, Numan hit the stage first and packed as much gothic flair as possible into his allotted hour. Flanked by a guitar/bass duo who looked to be auditioning for the role of Feyd-Rautha (or the evil version of the twin brothers who back Brandi Carlile), Numan seemed to be in constant motion, manifesting his dramatic songs through something adjacent to interpretive dance. Said songs sounded great, too, with the punch of the four-piece band topped by Numan’s distinctive and still-commanding voice. The set largely stuck to the darker and heavier second act of his discography, but did dip back to 1979’s Pleasure Principle for a revved-up “Metal” and a fairly faithful run through “Cars.” The relative levity of that hit may have jarred slightly against the otherwise apocalyptic tone, but not in an unwelcome sense. Numan is a proper synthpop pioneer, after all, and ought to own it now and again.

Also owners of a lengthy discography that stretches to the present day, show-closers Ministry focused a solid portion of their own set on recent material too – for better or worse. Jourgensen and company’s first seven songs pulled from this year’s Hopiumforthemasses and 2021’s Moral Hygiene, railing against a host of modern societal ills via songs with titles like “Aryan Embarrassment,” “Just Stop Oil” and “B.D.E.” (I’ll let you guess what that last one stands for). While the songs’ political hearts are in the right place (Nazis = bad, reproductive rights = good, etc.), Jourgensen’s approach to the subject matter these days isn’t exactly awash in nuance.

Then again, few would accuse Ministry of subtlety at any stage of their career, and the mechanical metal churn of the band (in one of the loudest mixes I’ve ever heard at Roadrunner) did bring a spine-rattling thrill to the proceedings. The current lineup includes none of the band’s classic-era membership outside of Jourgensen himself, but it’s a roster with an intriguing resume nonetheless. Founding Tool bassist Paul D’Amour and alt-metal journeyman Roy Mayorga hold down the rhythm section, while Madonna sideman Monte Pittman rounds things out with fellow axeman Cesar Soto and keyboardist John Bechdel.

Even Jourgensen acknowledged that the extended string of new material could be patience-testing, remarking with half-genuine surprise that he’d made it this far without anyone throwing a drink at him after “Broken System.” The remainder of the set would reward the faithful though, with a survey of the band’s best-loved late 80’s/early ’90s period that sent much of the floor into a frenzy. Old favorites like “Stigmata,” “Thieves” and the set-closing “Jesus Built My Hotrod” conjured up the textured heaviness and manic thrills of the band’s peak in satisfying fashion, sending the masses home happy.

Scroll for a gallery of all three bands below.