Ministry / Pythia
27 May 2008
The Forum, London

Ministry had opted for different support acts on each of their UK dates and for the opening night of the tour in London, Pythia had claimed that honour. On paper it looks like a bit of a miss match. Imagine Tarja era Nightwish with much heavier guitars and you’re not far of the realm of Pythia. In Greek mythology the Pythia was a priestess who gave prophecies. Whilst guitarist Ross White’s own prophecy for a sea of indifferent Ministry fans was partly true, given the less than appreciative response some of Ministry’s past support acts have received, the applause following each song was certainly a positive.

Fronting the band is the whirlwind of energy that is Emily Alice Ovenden. The classical trained vocalist, who is also a member of the Mediaeval Babes, hit the stage with gusto, ripping her microphone out of its stand which was then booted into the photopit hitting a rather bemused bouncer. For the remainder of the band’s set she barely stood still, at times writhing around on the floor or clinging on to Ministry’s fencing behind the band.

Up until the more commercial Sarah (Bury Her), its pretty heavy stuff with the guitars of White and Tim Neale moving from crunching riffs to power metal speed, topped off with a symphonic backing and Emily Alice’s soaring soprano voice. By the time Emily Alice had dedicated closer Sweet Cantation fittingly to the late Paul Raven, the venue had swelled in numbers and appreciative applause saw Pythia leave the stage.

Pythia set list:
My Pale Prince / Tristan / Army Of The Damned / Sarah (Bury Her) / No Compromise / Sweet Cantation

So with George W. Bush due to depart the White House in January next year and either Hilary Clinton or, more likely, Barack Obama set to take his place, Al Jourgensen took the decision to wind up Ministry with The Last Sucker and set off on the C U LaTour. London marked the first date on the European leg and the faithful were out in force for this send off.

Separating themselves from their audience, Ministry had a wire fence erected at the front of the stage with a lower portion in the middle for Jourgensen to lean over when not rocking backwards and forward on his goat skull adorned crucifix microphone stand. Behind the band, the usual montage of visuals was projected on the back wall, though one change to previous encounters was the lighting, which left the band a lot more visible than the usual shadowy figures.

Fittingly Let’s Go opened the set with Jourgensen strolling onto the stage in a top hat, defying the smoking ban with a cigarette in hand. For the most of the set, Jourgensen dispensed with playing guitar, though with Sin Quirin and Tommy Victor handling six string duties, the tight regimented riffing did not suffer. The Prong main-man Victor in particular seemed to be enjoying not having vocal duties and bounced around the stage encouraging the crowd to react likewise. Quirin meanwhile had discovered the fencing didn’t quite meet the wall on his side of the stage and, for large parts of the set, sneaked around its edge mainly posing for some ladies he’d been hanging out with during the support set.

The setlist could be considered a little weird but certainly regimented like Ministry’s music. The opening five songs were all plucked from The Last Sucker, with Watch Yourself particularly strong. Life Is Good sounded strangely different to the recorded version whereas the title track saw the crowd clapping along.

George W Bush’s face appearing on the screen indicated it was time for No W as we entered the Houses Of The Molé phase of the evening. The first four songs from that album were aired with Worthless particularly punishing. In comparison to the rest of the set, this section caused a bit of a lull in the crowd’s reaction, though they sprung to life as the opening samples of Rio Grande Blood signified it was time for that album to take the spotlight.

Personally I believe Rio Grande Blood is the stand out album of Ministry’s latest trio of original studio material and it seemed the bulk of this crowd agreed. Senor Peligro’s big riff saw head’s banging before Victor ripped through the Slayer like guitar solo. Things really peaked with the Grammy nominated Lieslieslies, with Jourgensen leaning over his fence and telling the crowd to “Drink and get naked!”. Khyber Pass brought this section of the show and the main set to a rousing close.

Time for the first encore and a selection of songs that is causing consternation with some of Ministry’s longer term fans. Just four songs summed up the rest of Ministry’s back catalogue. Classics all So What, N.W.O., Just One Fix and Thieves may be and indeed they send the audience down the front wild. But surely this wasn’t all we were going to get of Ministry’s illustrious past on the final tour? Where was Burning Inside? Breathe? Psalm 69? And most shockingly where was Stigmata?

Returning to the stage, many would have expected a couple of those songs to appear, but the finale was a selection of covers which dampened the shows atmosphere and saw a steady stream of people heading for the exit. Particularly during the finale of Wonderful World which was frankly naff.

So in all, not the triumphant send off we could have wished for, but still an entertaining show up to the last encore. I shall get a chance for one more Ministry experience at Sweden Rock next week, where I imagine their late slot and cool night air will provide better surroundings than the Forum, though I can’t imagine they’ll tinker with this setlist. Strangely, maybe if the American Ministry fans vote for Republican John McCain, they might coax Jourgensen out of retirement!

Ministry set list:
Let’s Go / The Dick Song / Watch Yourself / Life is Good / The Last Sucker / No W / Waiting / Worthless / Wrong / Rio Grande Blood / Senor Peligro / LiesLiesLies / Khyber Pass / So What / N.W.O. / Just One Fix / Thieves / Just Got Paid / Roadhouse Blues / Wonderful World