Ministry, the Melvins and COC live up to their '90s heydays during blistering San Antonio show

All three bands had the crowd at the Aztec Theatre riveted — pun intended.

click to enlarge Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen has no trouble keeping up with the younger guys in his band. - Jaime Monzon
Jaime Monzon
Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen has no trouble keeping up with the younger guys in his band.
Check out the Current's photos from the show.

The aging process will eventually catch up to all of us — even rock stars.

However, at San Antonio’s Aztec Theatre on Monday, Ministry, the Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity showed up the younglings and brought back the energy all three bands were known for during their 1990s peaks.

Hardcore band-turned-stoner rockers Corrosion of Conformity opened the evening's festivities Texas style, taking the stage with ZZ Top’s “La Grange” booming through the PA. COC's sludgy, bass-focused songs eventually gave way to midtempo rocking riffs that ignited an enthusiastic audience response. The red, yellow and orange stage lights accentuated the warm guitar melodies that bled from the speakers, as if they were being grown under a heat lamp. If the periodic screams and whistles didn’t signal San Antonio’s eager support for COC, the crowd’s slow headbanging surely sealed the deal.

After COC’s set, the Melvins stepped out in fashion — literally. Bassist Steven McDonald rocked an all-white outfit that wouldn’t look out of place on a Beatles album, while singer-guitarist Buzz Osborne wore a black gown with third, fourth and fifth eyes sewn into the upper half. Drummer Dale Crover, the odd man out, did his job in a T-shirt and shorts.

An eclectic trio on the fringes of heavy alternative and progressive rock, the Melvins performed with the energy of an up-and-coming garage band rocking a neighborhood bar to its foundations. On top of the shimmying and squatting coming from McDonald, Osbourn's iconic fluffy hair, now gray with age, bounced around while he reeled around the stage. As evidence of the band’s rocking abandon, a drumstick went flying mid-song.

While both COC and the Melvins blazed new trails in the ’90s, neither snagged the same level of exposure as the night's headliner, known for pioneering a fusion of heavy metal guitars with whirring and thudding industrial cacophony.

The band began its set with a projection that read "Ministry stands with Ukraine." The words appeared over video of the beleaguered European country’s flag flapping in the breeze. As the group tore into its song "Breathe," war footage on acid replaced the flag. The stage exuded a sense of hopelessness and division. A neon cross sat in front of the mic stand and a chain link fence separated the band from the crowd throughout most of the set — visual touches that fit the Ministry's anti-corporate aesthetics and progressive politics.

During the set, the group tore through classic Ministry material along with tracks from last year’s Moral Hygiene album and even a few from frontman Al Jourgensen's short-lived Pailhead side project.

Drummer Roy Mayorga, known for his time in Stone Sour, and Madonna guitarist Monte Pittman helped fill out this iteration of the band, but the aging Jourgensen managed to keep up with his younger sidemen. Not to say that Uncle Al didn’t need a cheat sheet — he flipped through one every so often behind the mic stand. That didn’t take away from the experience, but it was something you don't see younger bands needing to resort to.

At one point, Jourgensen busted out a guitar resembling a bat wing and joined in on the fun. Energy buzzed through the crowd as the band cut through classics including “Just One Fix” and the thrash-inducing “Thieves.”

At the finale, the screen above the stage flashed through old photos of the band, past albums and clips from songs spanning its career. A moving "In Memoriam" section even paid tribute to members of Ministry's legacy who are no longer with us.

Finally, after all the tugging at the fence that ensued during Ministry’s set, the barrier came down for the last few songs of the night. Ending with new material, it was clear the band hasn't lost its touch. The chugging, siren-sounding guitars, machinelike drumbeats, electronic noises and Jourgensen's raspy talk-box vocals seemed to embody the state of the world today as accurately as they did during the ’90s.

The forceful conclusion also made it clear that Ministry will continue to tour and make extreme music for as long as Jourgensen and crew can keep delivering the goods.

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