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I don’t want to preface this by saying that what I witnessed on Friday, June 30th (In the year of our lord two thousand and twelve) at the Vic Theater in Chicago was Ministry’s finest hour (well, two hours) but it probably was. Ministry’s “final” US show ever, Uncle Al along with mainstays Sin Quirin and Mike Scaccia on guitar, Casey Orr on bass, Aaron Rossi on drums and John Bechdel on keys; gave a performance that will go down in Ministry history as one of their best.

While the bulk of the main set was mostly newer material (much like the 2008 sets), Ministry still had lots of surprises and if possible, the band was tighter now than on their last go round. Opening with the sonic alarm clock that is “Ghouldiggers” off of this year’s Relapse, it was apparent from the start that “slowing down” was not an option as the band progressed in years. Uncle Al, at 53, looking even more like his nickname “Alien” with the addition of no less than 3 facial tattoos, was on fire. Dancing around like a man possessed behind his all new mic stand, Jourgensen seemed to be reveling in the finality of the night’s proceedings.

Songs that definitely are not favorites of mine from Relapse (“99 Percenters”, “United Forces”) served as visceral reminders of why Ministry truly shine on stage. On the other hand songs like “Worthless”, off of 2004′s Houses Of The Mole, which was a favorite already was positively devastating this time around. Other highlights were trips through the “Bush-y” (Al’s words) years with songs like “No W” and the Bin Laden centric “Khyber Pass” complete with new, updated lyrics reflecting recent events. One of the other perks of making it to Chicago and managing to get to the front (Seriously Chicago? This should not have happened!) was the privilege of watching Scaccia utterly destroy on guitar as well. The man’s hands moved so fast during songs like “Senor Peligro” that you’d swear he was part machine.

Beginning the first encore (yes, first) with “Psalm 69″, Uncle Al kept the haters at bay with another reminder that Ministry should never be doubted, never second-guessed. Especially on stage. Considering during the band’s last “farewell” tour Burton Bell of Fear Factory supplied guest vocals during the classics set, this was also a godsend to see Al close things out proper. From there, it was pure heaven for any longtime Ministry fan in attendance as they ripped through “N.W.O.”, “Just One Fix”, “Thieves”, and “So What” before leaving the stage once more (They would return one final time for their cover of S.O.D.’s “United Forces” off of this year’s Relapse).

Now I was at the last batch of “final” Ministry shows in Chicago in 2008 so I know it might not be over but with only five US shows in four cities announced and a handful of European Festival appearances scheduled for later in the summer, my thoughts are that this might be it. If this was indeed the last Ministry performance in the States then Al and company went out with a bang. If it’s not and I find myself on my way to Chicago in four years then God help us all for whatever Uncle Alien has in store for Relapse number two!

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