Moon Cat's Blog #1: Ministry/Numan/FLA
Updated: May 17
May 4, 2023
Franklin Music Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Earlier this year, a few legendary bands in the scene announced upcoming tours. They include Skinny Puppy (their “final tour”), Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Ministry along with Gary Numan and Front Line Assembly. I’m sure I’m missing some, there are so many right now.
I managed to secure tickets to Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Sisters of Mercy. I already saw Depeche Mode [[cough]] twenty [[cough]] years ago and I’m not a big enough Cure fan to justify the cost. *But shout out to Robert Smith for fighting Ticketmaster! About time someone did.
First up was Skinny Puppy supported by Lead into Gold in April. Great show but admittedly, I didn’t get any decent pics and my partner is a bigger fan than me so I don’t feel qualified to cover it extensively. I will say, Ogre’s theatrics were crazy as always. He had several costume changes including an alien head with glowing eyes. Interestingly, they didn’t play Assimilate but they did play Dig It.
Next up was Ministry and friends in May. Uncle Al picked a great lineup, bringing in Gary Numan and Front Line Assembly. I feel like Al Jourgensen and Numan have a few things in common. They were both born in 1958 and started out as synth pop acts but were eventually drawn to harder rock. They seem like good tour mates.
Before the show, we met up with friends and grabbed happy hour margaritas and tacos at Juno a few blocks away. 10/10, would recommend. Just go easier on the drinks than I did, I paid for it later.
I had no idea how packed this show would be so we waited in line before the doors opened. Not too many people outside. It was a Thursday night with an older crowd so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Once inside, I spotted some local regulars and chatted with friends. At one point, event organizer Patrick Rodgers came by and commented on all the huge bands touring at the moment. For those unfamiliar with Patrick, I believe he’s responsible for the long running Dracula’s Ball events in Philly. *Fun fact, he successfully sued Wells Fargo over a discrepancy in his mortgage! While chatting, he hinted at some upcoming shows coming up, but didn’t name names. However, I know this year’s Ball has My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult with Adult and Kanga. I’ll be going.
The electro-industrial sound of Front Line Assembly made for a good opener. Some of the songs they played were Plasticity, Rock Me Amadeus (without Jimmy Urine’s vocals), Millennium, and Mindphaser. Interesting tidbit for those unaware, lead singer Bill Leeb used to be part of Skinny Puppy in the 80’s, going by the pseudonym Wilhelm Schroeder. Everyone’s connected. Bill was joined on stage by Rhys Fulber, Tim Skold, and Jon Siren. Sadly, they played for less than an hour, but that’s to be expected with three acts.
Second was Gary Numan. I will warn you right now, I’m a total Numan fan girlie. This was my third time seeing him but first time as a supporting act, so his setlist felt abbreviated for me.
Gary took the stage along with his live backing band in their trademark post-apocalyptic getups from the Intruder tour. He played mostly modern era hits like Pure, Everything Comes Down To This, Love Hurt Bleed, and My Name Is Ruin but also sprinkled in two early era tracks, his mega hit Cars and Metal which Nine Inch Nails covered on Things Falling Apart. The energy from the crowd when Cars started was infectious. You couldn’t help but bounce around. He closed with A Prayer For The Unborn (Andy Gray remix) which is a refreshing track to finish on. He clearly has fun on stage and is impressively energetic for a guy in his mid-sixties.
Gary Numan’s career is fascinating. The abridged version goes like this…
He rocketed to insane stardom in the late 70’s/early 80’s by mixing pop rock with MOOG synths. However, after his first three solo albums, his musical career stagnated for a little more than a decade as he struggled to recapture that same level of success. In the early 90’s he met his future wife Gemma, originally a fan of his, who introduced him to bands like Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails. This darker music influenced his own sound which is apparent on his 1994 Sacrifice album. From then on, his style has drifted heavier and darker, winning new fans along the way. I love his old classics but his new sound is really exciting and cathartic. He’s a gifted songwriter and performer, perfecting his craft over forty years! If you ever get the chance to see him live, do it! You won’t be disappointed.
If I’m being honest, I could have left after Gary’s set, but I’ve never seen Ministry live so I had to stick around for that. Also, my s.o. is a huge fan of their early stuff. When Al and his band came out on stage, I could tell the stadium speakers had been turned up slightly. Thank God for earplugs. Also, the backing visuals for his songs were fun. It reminded me of doom scrolling during the pandemic. It’s obvious Al gets a lot of inspiration from current events.
The first few songs were from his latest album Moral Hygiene. Sonically, I’d call it more metal than industrial. It’s not my thing personally but I can see any metal fan really digging it. Halfway through their set, they started playing older stuff. Al even acknowledged a few times “you’ve been very patient” [listening to the new stuff]. They played N.W.O., Just One Fix, The Missing, Deity, Burning Inside, Stigmata with the encore being Ricky’s Hand, which is a Fad Gadget cover apparently coming out on their upcoming release.
During the encore, I could see Gary Numan, his wife, and a few others dancing on the side of the stage. According to his socials, Gary is having a lot of fun on this tour and really likes listening to Ministry’s sets during the shows.
You can tell by my photos that I stood far back for this show, but the energy during the older songs like Burning Inside and Stigmata was palpable. Pretty sure a pit formed up front. I’m too old and delicate for that shit.
You’ve probably seen the meme about Ministry being a synthpop band. I get the impression Al would like to scrub that part of his career from history because he doesn’t play anything from before 1988. To be fair, if you want to hear (Every Day Is) Halloween go to any goth club night.
When the lights came on after the encore, I got the sense from the crowd that everyone got their money’s worth. People looked both satisfied and exhausted. One guy’s head was bleeding. We hit the FLA merch booth but they had already run out of our size. 😖 Our buddy bought a cheap parking lot tour shirt outside the venue.
It was a great night. I can officially check Ministry off my list. Who knows, I might catch them again someday if Al keeps going. I will definitely be seeing Gary Numan and Front Line Assembly again when they come back to Philly. If you get a chance to catch this tour, I highly recommend it. 💜🌙
*check out my IG for more photos and videos from the show