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A ST. PETE SUNDAY SERMON WITH AN INDUSTRIAL EDGE

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By John Johnson, photos by Chaz Dykes of Chaz D Photography

It was a night of tuneful trailblazers at Jannus Landing on Sunday as industrial metal legends, Ministry returned to the St. Pete staple with new wave icon, Gary Numan and macabre electro band, Frontline Assembly. Most of the faithful trodding into Jannus this fine evening, were expectedly donned in all black. But there were some who went all out for the heavy hitting trifecta. I saw several towering mohawks, platform Doc Martens, sequin skirts with fishnets, hue altering contacts and vampire fangs and even saw a young lady in full body paint. There aren’t many lineups that can inspire such devotional attire, but Uncle Al (Jourgensen) and the two iconic supporting groups have what it takes.

The evenings festivities began on time as Frontline Assembly stormed the stage. Led by the “Godfather of Industrial Music” Bill Leeb (originator of Skinny Puppy), the goth rhythm makers didn’t seem to mind that it was still light outside. If you have ever been to Ybor’s gem, The Castle, then you have definitely heard this Canadian bands creations. I am certain that I couldn’t name but a handful of their songs, but I know that I have most assuredly shoe gazed my way around The Castle to their beats more times than I can remember. Lacking the dance space of Jannus’ courtyard didn’t seem to stop people from gyrating along as well. Frontman Leeb paced the stage as he growled and grunted his vocals, his slender figure would writhe and lurch across the stage, with heavy eyeliner and receding blonde hair; all while engineered and propelled by the band’s co-founder Rhys Fulber’s waves of mechanical-sounding synthesizers and sequencers. The bands guitarist, between distorted power chord duties, seemed to control an invisible marionette with his fingers whilst chewing on his extended tongue, long bleached blonde braids in a large bundle atop his oversized, mirrored fames. He and Leeb moved about to the pulsing rhythms in an almost choreographed manner.

The sun had recently set as the second act of the evening took to the stage. I had seen both Frontline Assembly before, and headliner Ministry many times, but I was most eager to witness the middle act, Gary Numan. The black haired electronic music icon, known for his dramatic stage presence and emotionally charged performances, delivered a set that captivated the audience from start to finish. If you saw him on the street, you might think he was a middle-aged retail manager for Hot Topic. But once the medium built, large eyed and pale complected gentleman appeared under the purple spotlight, he transformed and captivated. At 67 years young, the London born Numan covered the stage, prancing and posing with more energy then some men half his age. Although he held most of the audience’s gaze, Numan’s guitarist and bassist were nearly as enthralling. Looking like twin characters from a Mad Max inspired film, the two tall, bald, black skirt clad figures undulated to the corpulent compositions. At times, the guitarist seemed to be somewhere else, having inaudible conversations and staring at random members of the congregation. I was more than pleasantly surprised by Numan and companies’ performance, and the fact that he squeezed his 40 plus year hit “Cars” in between more contemporary sounding electronica, was even more impressive.

It was now time for the malevolent main event, Ministry. Although not a particularly religious person, it did not go unnoticed that this show was taking place on Palm Sunday. Interestingly enough, Ministry started as sort of a synth pop style band in 1981, before founder Al Jourgensen helped pioneer their more metal sound. Jannus wouldn’t be getting any of that original candy coated goth in this show. No, this was going to be a hard rocking, industrial barrage throughout. Which is what this assemblage was craving. Jourgensen, with tattoos and spiked piercings bedazzling his weathered face, stood at his pulpit and began his sermon. Unlike Beyonce, Jourgensen’s black cowboy hat (atop his currently dreadlock-less coif) has been a staple in recent years, not because he’s attempting a crossover into Country music. The show began with several “new” songs, and Uncle Al thanked the audience for not throwing beer bottles at the band because of the mostly unrecognized material. Other than “Goddamn White Trash” three songs in, I was unfamiliar with the newer numbers. He thanked his flock for their patience as he dove into a more beloved bullhorn melody, “NWO” (New World Order). That gave way to the same album’s(Psalm 69’) “Just One Fix,” which the band played as William Burroughs’ spectral visage loomed above, the beat writer scowling, inaudibly orating and sometimes shooting a shotgun. As if the crowd wasn’t already at a fever pitch, Ministry broke into a trio of songs from 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey, “The Missing,” “Deity” and finally, a personal favorite “Stigmata,” during which the bullhorn reappeared. Before the two song encore, the St. Pete convergence was sated once again by crowd sing-along “Thieves” and the almost rockabilly raucous number “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, also one of my choice canticles.

Although the masses had filed into the courtyard at the beginning of the evening somewhat morosely, they exited the iconic downtown venue with an extra pep in their platform soled step. The expectedly sold out engagement had delivered three mesmerizing productions by pioneers of their individual genres. And on a St. Pete Palm Sunday, the supporting acts along with Uncle Al and his Ministry had adeptly anointed the “parishioners” with ear numbing success.

Now do yourself a favor and go See, Hear and Feel live music somewhere.