Celebrating 40 Years of Skinny Puppy: Catching Their Electrifying Farewell Tour Review+Photos: Skinny Puppy & Lead Into Gold at Bogarts 4/28/23
LOS ANGELES, CA- I was super excited when Skinny Puppy announced their 40th-anniversary tour back in February of this year. I remember seeing their video for “Dig It” on 120 minutes on MTV. I loved the sound of it and became an instant fan. They are a group that has been so influential to both industrial rock and electronic music and needs to be recognized as such. Sadly, though, this is also dubbed their final tour, one last trek before calling it a day. Most of the tour sold out within a few hours, and the show at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, OH, was no exception.
The venue was packed to the rafters with the sold-out crowd of enthusiastic fans clad in black, face paint, and various goth/industrial accoutrements. The ages ranged from child to senior citizens. I believe the youngest I saw was about 7 or 8 years of age, which is an indication of the breadth of SP’s musical reach.
The opening act was a band I was not familiar with called Lead Into the Gold, headed by former Ministry Bassist Paul Barker. He was joined by another musician whose name I don’t know. They are a synth-pop band with a bit of industrial influence. It’s a two-piece band with backing tracks. Their music was heavy and industrial, yet it had a pop sensibility to it. If you grew up during the golden age of industrial rock, I believe they will appeal to you. I think the best thing you can do is just check them out online.
The stage was set up with some small screens and a lot of synth gear, including a keytar. Barker sang while playing his bass guitar, mainly, occasionally switching to the electro boxes or guitar, and gave us some awesome atmospheric mood music. They were well-received by the crowd, with many people singing along and really enjoying the vibe. Barker recently released his latest Lead Into Gold album, “The Eternal Present,” which they are supporting on tour.Follow Lead Into Gold on Facebook and Instagram.
One of the coolest things about Skinny Puppy is how they have always been more than just a simple band. Since its inception in 1982, this Vancouver industrial juggernaut has turned out live shows that are complete, shocking audio-visual experiences. A Skinny Puppy concert is a mixed-media art piece filled with contradicting religious, political, and sexual imagery. And it’s all accompanied, of course, by outlandish stage costumes and relentless, pulsating beats. Having been cited as major influences by Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, Jonathan Davis (Korn), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), Crystal Castles, and many, many more, Skinny Puppy paved the way for a lot of artists that we know and love today.
Taking the stage as sounds of bloops, bleeps, and knob-twiddling emerged from speakers, the three-piece band, featuring drummer Justin Bennett, guitarist Matthew Setzer, and founding member cEvin Key, obscured by his massive metal rigging fully dominating stage left from which he commanded his musical contributions, took their places.
They opened with “VX Gas Attack” on a dimly lit stage, featuring a low, almost below-view medical privacy curtain. Nivel Ogre, while singing, played around behind the curtain, creating a shadow-show with his gestures and props. The stage seemed too small for their usual performance art fare. Independent of that, SP is still the sonically thundering juggernaut of sound they’ve always been.
Midway through their second song, “Immortal,” Ogre stepped from behind the curtain while continuing to shadow play with props being displayed through the curtain by his “tormentor.” He appeared in a sheer cloak with a large headdress covering what would later be revealed as a huge alien head with glowing eyes. His odd appearance was reminiscent of, for lack of a better descriptor, Emperor Sheev Palpatine of the Galactic Empire. As the curtain was removed from center stage, we were introduced to the presence of another visual artist whose face mask and outfit gave him the appearance of being Darth Vader in this scenario. They danced and played off each other as master and servant throughout the set. It eventually led to scenes of tormentor and victim as Ogre was tied to a chair and bludgeoned, with his head mask being split open and revealing a head wound. It was both grotesque and enthralling at the same time. The set was full of play-acting, light bondage, and alien surgeries, among other playful antics, but part of the whole stage production was lost due to being very darkly lit. The sound was great, and the band members seemed to really enjoy playing, but it was visually lost due to the lighting.
Their 19-song set was comprised of songs from all over the spectrum of their 40-year career. The highlights for me were songs like “Human Disease (Skumm),” “Warlock,” “Dig It,” “Candle,” and ending with “Testure.” If this is truly the end, SP’s legacy as one of the pioneers of the goth/industrial music movement is solidified for all eternity. In my opinion, they do it better than most who have gained more notoriety, but don’t hit the same as SP has on my musical landscape. The show concluded with Ogre reemerging for one last song in human form and visibly praising his fellow musicians and performers before turning his genuinely appreciative gestures toward the crowd, thanking them for sticking with them for 40 years. They still have a few more dates on this leg of the tour, concluding with an appearance at the “Sick New World” fest in Las Vegas. I believe I read on their official Instagram that they would be doing an additional leg at some point covering the West Coast. You can check their website or Bandsintown to find out when they play near you. But definitely, even if you’re just a cursory fan, go see them. It’ll probably be your last chance.Follow Skinny Puppy on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.