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Skinny Puppy: One Time One Place

House of Blues - Chicago, IL, United States - May 10, 2007

by by Jackie Lee King, photography by Dan Locke

Skinny PuppyTo set the tone of the evening one of the opening bands, Sword Heaven (Aaron Hibbs and Mark Van Fleet), treated the ears of the audience to a sonic calamity. Though I've been told that there were actual songs played, it all seemed like a cathartic cataclysm of percussive proportions. The music is a channeling of primeval angst shoved into a 'machine.' At times the lead singer, if you call it singing, sounded like he was being hacked to death and not allowed to die, which coincidentally was on the minds of many of the audience members; just let him die. This is what Hell suffering may sound like if you've had your ears hacked off and forced to listen to your own screaming through thick pools of blood. Ironically this is how Skinny Puppy may have been viewed back in 1982 when they were perfecting their craft. So...good job Sword Heaven; mission accomplished.

First and foremost I have to state clearly that Skinny Puppy is one of my favorite groups, but why beat a dead horse, or in this case a Puppy. Skinny Puppy's music is a multi-sensory exploration into the fears of our daily lives that are usually portrayed as normal and necessary to maintain one's mental comfort. Lyrically Ogre strips the veil from our eyes, like cataract surgery, to reveal the real horror of our existence. They are now bringing this message to the massed in touring their current release Mythmaker.

The show starts with Ogre performing behind a veil for the first 4 songs but hardcore puppy fans were waiting for the blood to flow. In previous tours Ogre has been known to put on a surreal and sometimes shocking stage show to pummel his meaning into our heads. What fans were teased with was an industrial looking grease gun that may or may not be intended to squirt the audience. Hell, even the backing video footage was not even close to their mythic disturbing nature as previous tours.

Most of the 90 minute set sampled their past three records: The Process, The Greater Wrong of the Wright, and their current. Ogre's stage presence seems to have lost its growl and he appears to just go though the motions. After emerging from the veil on stage Ogre revealed his costume to be a system of plastic tubes and coils for the suggested purpose of squirting the audience. Maybe it was a mechanical malfunction, but this audience wanted blood. By the end of the set the audience was wondering why he even had a costume. Thank God for cEvin Key (Keyboards and programming) and Mark Walk (live percussion) that magically recreated the sounds of Puppy's previous releases flawlessly. Yes, Ogre sounded great too, gesh...such picky fans.

Skinny PuppyOf course the new music is not going to be like the old stuff. They did perform Rodent, Warlock, Dig It and Testure. The sound was great, but the visuals didn't freak me out. There chaos and calamity was absent from the performance; the show is supposed to scar me for life. With new songs they performed like Politikil and Ugli, Ogre is really not saying anything new. Heck he might even be taking a cue from Marylyn Mansion instead of the other way around. Because I really don't believe that 'Jesus wants to be Ugli'[Lyirc from the song Ugli] based on his performance. The nature of a Puppy song is to give a dog's eye view of the world, not dog someone out.

In all fairness, I did ask a couple of newbies at the concert what they thought of the show and they said that it was great. If you wanted to see the new cleansed, folded and manipulated Puppy, this was the show for you. So how can I be bashing the band and praising them at the same time; you just have to be a Puppy person.

The great thing about this bands musical history is that it stays perfect in your mind. Puppy has always been a kind of a scene. I know that whenever I see the integrated S and P symbols on a t-shirt, poster or even tattoo it reminds me of things that I don't want to forget. Passionate music with disturbing commentary to challenge the listener while giving them a good dance beat. And that is what you will see with Skinny Puppy on any tour. So...good doggie, but you can do better. Next time MAKE a mess on the floor.