Ministry, Gary Numan & Front Line Assembly in St. Pete: A sublime industrial lineup

Live Review

Monte Pittman and Al Jourgensen of Ministry. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: Ministry with Gary Numan and Front Line Assembly – Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, FL – March 24, 2024

On March 24th, St. Petersburg, Florida, exploded with an industrial fan’s wet dream—a lineup that included Ministry, Gary Numan, and Front Line Assembly. Say it isn’t so? Each band’s contribution to the genre has been monumental. I have listened to Gary Numan since 1979, when he released “Cars” and “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” We called it ‘New Wave’ until the genre became harder, clankier, and darker into what we know today. Even Ministry’s early work teetered on synthpop until they found their groove with an edgier and more brutal sound. Front Line Assembly, which featured ex-Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb, has its roots in the ‘80s with its brand of electro-industrial music, which we often heard in clubs like Tampa’s Castle.

Bill Leep of Front Line Assembly. Photo by Chyrisse.

For this occasion, Jannus Live was not surprisingly sold out. The courtyard was crawling with Gen X’ers (much to my delight) wearing black industrial concert t-shirts and Doc Martens. The gender ratio was 50/50 since industrial music often appealed to the dance crowd. And dancing there was, as Front Line Assembly began the concert at 7 p.m., before dusk.

Bill Leeb and the band made their entry and immediately pounced with hits like “I.E.D.” and “Vigilante.” The guitarist moved around the stage with yellow dreads flying, playfully sticking his tongue out. Longtime member Rhys Fulber played the keyboard but occasionally banged a stick on a snare drum. The energy was electric as the pounding synth beats and vocals carried me back to my rave days. Highlights included “Mindphaser” and “Millennium.” The set was mind-blowing and an orgasm for the ears.

Gary Numan. Photo by Chyrisse.

By 8 p.m., it was sunset. More people squeezed into the courtyard, and one could feel the body heat. Gary Numan and the band walked out on a smoke-filled stage, which was soon lit with white strobes, colored lights, and projected images on the rear wall. Numan was dressed dystopian, wearing a dark grey tunic and leather arm wraps. As he sang, he violently jerked his head and crouched while grabbing the mic. His stage presence was powerful and exhilarating. Two guitar and bass players with shaved heads stood on either side of him, looking like twins from a Mad Max film, finishing off the apocalyptic atmosphere. Highlights included the songs “Haunted” and the poignant “Prayer for the Unborn” as images of an ultrasound shone on the rear wall. “Cars” was a crowd favorite as the crowd danced and waved arms.

Al Jourgesen of Ministry. Photo by Chyrisse.

I would have felt satiated after seeing these two legendary performances at this point in the evening. However, adding Ministry to the mix made this an evening for the books. The smoke-flooded stage resembled a church a giant, symbolic sculpture of a skeletal woman served as a pulpit and music podium. Wearing a black hat, a long-tailed jacket, and oval wire shades, Al Jourgensen sang “B.D.E.” Also known as “Big Dick Energy,” the song is a love letter to women and a “fuck-you” to the patriarchy. Jourgensen thrust as he sang and motioned with his arms as if holding a “big one.” The song is from the band’s recent album HOPEIUMFORTHEMASSES, a lyrical political and cultural commentary—which only Al Jourgensen could deliver. It is another reason I love the man.

Palast Fund Investigatrix, Leni BadPenny. Photo by Chyrisse.

The extraordinary Leni Badpenny, who is also in “B.D.E.’s” official video, made a special appearance during the song’s delivery. Fans of investigative journalist Greg Palast will know who she is.

The set continued with additional songs from the album, including “Goddamn White Trash,” “New Religion,” and “Just Stop Oil.” At one point, he spoke to the audience, saying, “It’s been 13 years since we’ve been in St. Petersburg.” He promised the band would play songs that “you know” and jokingly thanked them for “not throwing stuff at us.” (My cohort at the show remembers the band’s 1992 Lollapalooza set at Detroit’s Pine Knob, where the sky and stage were filled with flying sod from the lawn, provoking a furious Jourgensen to stop the show and admonish the crowd!) Songs like “N.W.O.” and “Stigmata” stirred the crowd into a dancing frenzy. The encore included “So What” and “Burning Inside.”

With three heavyweights and legends playing on one bill—and delivering a hungry and energetic show like in the salad days of industrial music—I’m sure everyone left feeling as spiritually high. It was an evening of incredible music and showmanship delivered by pros. Some of the younger bands should take a lesson or two.

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Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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