Skinny Puppy for the Uninitiated
written by Vanessa DeRenzio
I must admit that I went to see Vancouver band Skinny Puppy with no real knowledge of Industrial music, the band’s history, or what to expect, but I was completely enthralled by all of the above. Skinny Puppy’s theatrical performance was through the roof, and the super-fans of the band, both established and new, seemed to be devouring everything that the band did on stage. This was the most crowded I have ever seen it at the Commodore!
I arrived at the venue just as Skinny Puppy’s set started, and people were going wild! There was a good variety of fans in the crowd; from extremely gothic characters ranging from barely nineteen to those who were super fans when the band formed back in 1982 – to folks who could have been your average dad, aside from the fact that Skinny Puppy is most definitely not ‘dad rock.’ I’ve also never seen so many dreadlocks under one roof! The majority of the fans had already spent the evening drinking heavily (on a Tuesday night), which made for some very interesting dance moves. If I learned anything that night, it was that people LOVE Skinny Puppy.
As for the band itself, they really know how to put on a good show. They had multiple screens that showed various images, both what was happening on stage, as well as some eerie images of things like maggots and nuclear explosions. I hate to say it, but I was going into this expecting to see some old geezers who had long expired, but that is absolutely not what I got. I was extremely impressed. Lead singer Nivek Ogre did a fantastic job at enticing the audience and really drawing everyone in. He was fully costumed (until the encore), with a mask, some gloves, what looked like some mechanical things, and some odd dreadlocks, and did some costume changes, which I thought really enhanced the performance. He did strange things such as rip out teeth from the mask, and cut himself with a large kitchen knife. cEvin Key was placed in the corner dressed as a typical DJ would, which I thought was a hilarious mix with the gothic happenings on the front of the stage. Their drummer Mark Walk was literally hidden behind a wall of screens and oddly tucked away in the back.
The stage was set up in a way that I have never seen before. In one corner it featured a chair, a lamp, and what appeared to be a taxidermied dog, while the other side of the stage left room for the strange looking actors. It featured a man in a HAZMAT suit that would continuously chase Nivek Ogre around the stage, as well as what appeared to be a tall steam punk character that would hold up a sheet for the costume changes. Did anyone else understand that, or am I the only one that was confused but enthralled?
As for their set, it was long, but it was very well put together. From what I can gather, it was a nice mix of old and new (I could always tell when a song was old by the amount of screaming it got). It was pretty impossible to tell where one song ended and another began, but I enjoyed how they left very little silence. This was probably out of necessity with the long costume changes, but people seemed to eat this up and continued dancing the whole way through. I wish I could go into more detail about songs that they played, but they all blended in to one another, leaving me little time to catch up on what was going on. I can comment on the fact that though the songs are mostly synth, I thought that they were very well done, and that Nivek Ogre’s voice stood up above the background noise, which was elating because all too often I see a singer drowned out by his synth background and drums. Though they didn’t say much, people were definitely elated to see Skinny Puppy on their home turf, playing their favourite songs.
After about an hour and twenty of intense playing and theatrics, the band left the stage briefly, only to reappear for their encore. Nivek Ogre was not dressed up this time, but I must admit, the encore was spectacular. They kept it fairly short and sweet, but ended the entire show bringing out Bill Leeb. I could just tell that Ogre was ecstatic to play with an “old friend” as he had introduced him, which made the performance that much more exciting. Fans were elated to see an old band member reappear.
I don’t know if I would go out of my way to listen to Skinny Puppy, but they put on an amazing show. I probably wouldn’t go see them again, but I am absolutely glad I got to see them once. It was a concert that I will never forget. I would definitely recommend them to anyone that wants to have a good time, and doesn’t mind a little bit of goth!
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written by Vanessa DeRenzio
*photo courtesy Skinny Puppy