MINISTRY and DEVILDRIVER at O2 Ritz Manchester – 19 August 2016
Review by Mark Dean || Photos by Christopher James Ryan
Take two extreme bands – one industrial innovator (Ministry), plus one that is still on the rise with a growing reputation (DevilDriver) after ten years. Coming from two different shades and musical genres it would be interesting to see how the combination would work for a live audience. I have previously witnessed the brutal live onslaught and sensory overkill of Ministry on their last UK tour a few years ago, but this would be my debut DevilDriver show. Unfortunately, due to the sad death of Ministry guitarist Mike Scaccia, they would be featuring a different lineup on this set of dates. The Manchester show at the legendary venue was sold out, but sadly due to the gig being one of the now common “early” shows, it was a long way short of capacity when DevilDriver strode on stage and grabbed the audience by the throat. Thus is the state of play in modern times, with many venues opting to cash in twice, having the live bands play early then run a club night. This has both advantages and disadvantages. In its favour, the gig has ended and public transport is still running, so no expensive taxis home. On the other hand, support bands lose in terms of audience numbers, with fans either being caught in rush hour traffic or indeed still actually at work itself. From my vantage point (central balcony) it was apparent that DevilDriver would not be playing to a packed house. This was disappointing as the energetic delivery of the band in a live setting really is better colliding with a heaving, seething, angry and pumped up audience. Still a respectful number of people nonetheless as frontman Dez led his troops angrily right into the face of the adoring audience members.
DevilDriver’s sound has changed quite significantly over the last few albums. The new album has seen the emergence more of guitarist Mike Spreitzer into the songwriting capacity of the band. Trust No One has also seen the departure of major band contributor drummer John Boecklin, in addition to guitarist Jeff Kendrick. It marks a new chapter not just in terms of band personnel but also the beginning of a different stage in the band’s musical evolution. Due to the short support set only two numbers were featured off the new album, they were also those that the band had actually made videos for – “My Nights Sky” and “Daybreak.” It is to the bands credit that the newer numbers were greeted as enthusiastically as the old DevilDriver standards like “Nothing’s Wrong,” “Meet the Wretched,” and “Clouds Over California.” The energy thrown out by the band was matched equally by the now rapidly filling up venue as pits broke out. To be honest, the energy and interaction of frontman Dez made it very difficult to do anything but get directly involved in the performance. Even the old heads in the balcony were visibly moved, as heads nodded along to the heavy and crushing power emanating from the stage. Their set flew by in a flash and left the crowd craving more. I was very impressed by my debut viewing, and will be looking forward to seeing DevilDriver on their return for some headline UK shows.
After a quick stage turnaround it was time for the industrial juggernaut that is Ministry to bulldoze the now packed to capacity venue to the ground. While I would never profess to being a fan of the industrial musical genre there is certainly no doubting its ability to lay waste an audience. One feature of this bunch of live dates is that it appealed to longstanding and die-hard fans. Catching up with DevilDriver guitarist Mike prior to the show, he had highlighted the fact that Ministry would be dipping into some of their classic albums on this run of dates. Albums rarely featured previously live would be dusted down as old classics became added to this particular live setlist. The sonic overload from the band was also matched in terms of the typical visuals from the genre – smoke, strobe lighting, and rapidly changing video screens. Al Jourgensen is a legend, and the years have certainly not mellowed nor dulled his enigmatic visual presence. While many of the tracks I have to profess were not personally recognizable, that did not impact on the band’s ability to serve up an entertaining spectacle. Ministry never fail to deliver a full performance. Ears and senses were assailed and necks suffered whiplash…. Ears ringing, I left the venue soggy, wet, and exhausted but with a huge grin. Job done Al and troops – see you again hopefully very soon.