Skinny Puppy 6/1/07 at House of Blues

Skinny Puppy 6/1/07 at House of Blues

Friday night saw the long awaited return of Skinny Puppy to the city of Chicago. This show was part of the Mythrus tour, which is in support of their newest album, Mythmaker. Anyone who knows me for more than about five minutes can tell you that Skinny Puppy is my absolute favorite band in the entire world and has been since 1988. Needless to say I was really excited and expectations were high.

Toddsend and his friend Chris made the long trip out from Evansville, IN and we all met up at Combustion Manor while I packed up my gear and then we hit the road for the extra long commute in bad traffic to the most car-unfriendly part of the city, the Loop/Gold Coast where the House of Blues is located. After unsuccessfully trying to find street parking, we gave up and paid for garage parking across the street. Toddsend and Chris went to the end of the very long line to wait for the doors to open while I went inside to the box office to get my ticket and appropriate passes.

Nearly one hour later the box office was finally given the guest list and I was provided with my credentials along with an apology for the delay. By the time I jumped the ropes to the entrance from inside, Toddsend and Chris were just being searched and wanded by the security. We went up the stairs and found them a good place to stand to actually see the show, which is something the House of Blues is extremely short on when its crowded.

After about an hour of a DJ spinning some rather entertaining music, the prerecorded safety message was played and the show was about to begin. I quickly made my way into the barricade after having to push past some guy who appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest along with aviator goggles who decided he was going to be the human doorway to the barricade area despite the fact he didn’t work for the club.

Otto
Otto Von Schirach

Otto
Otto Von Schirach


Otto Von Schirach

Otto
Otto Von Schirach

Otto Von Schirach then took the stage. Otto is a one man noise army. Armed with a laptop and a variety of effects gear, he creates some really abrasive noise with an occasional beat behind it. His vocals are that of a grindcore band and as he growls his words, he moves around the stage like a spazz. I wasn’t a fan last time he toured with Skinny Puppy. This time around he was far more entertaining. Perhaps he caught me in the right mood but he is really only good in very short doses, like that of about 15 minutes. He played about 30 so to me it tended to drag on but there was an ample amount of people in the audience that were into it far more than I was.

Sword Heaven
Sword Heaven

Sword Heaven
Sword Heaven

Sword Heaven
Sword Heaven

Sword Heaven
Sword Heaven

After a very quick equipment change, Sword Heaven took the stage. They had a drum kit set up with very large sized drums, and then a table full of effects gear and a large piece of metal. The fellow who was to man the drum kit duct taped some microphone contraption to his neck and started growling like an animal. He then proceeded to tie cymbals to his legs and stalk around the venue for awhile. I was shooting a few pictures of the other guy on stage while he was making noises with his guitar and some metal pipe contraption (sort of like a poor man’s ATG sans the strings and with a metal slider in their place) when all of a sudden I look to my right and the other guy returned and was standing right next to me. He then climbed up on stage and got to work pounding on the drums. This guy had really odd mannerisms and would pound on the drum kit while growling and moving his head and body in a very ape like manner. At some points he was frothing at the mouth and he reminded me of a cross between Gollum from Lord of the Rings and an ape. While he did this, the other guy made plenty of noises with the guitar, sheet metal and the aforementioned contraption. Their “songs” in no way resemble actual songs or seemed to have any structure. It truly was an aural assault of pounding noise and growling. Much like Otto, it was good in about a ten minute dose but 30 minutes seemed a bit excessive. A lot of the crowd seemed rather uninterested in these guys which I found odd because if they liked Otto, this was in a somewhat similar vein.

The DJ resumed her duties while the stage was being prepared for Skinny Puppy. At this point the crowd seemed to be growing impatient waiting for them to take the stage as well. When the lights dimmed and the big screen showing commercials was raised, it sounded like the entire crowd roared with approval and anticipation. The time had finally arrived.

Warning! If you do not want any spoilers, you should stop reading this now as I will make mention of songs that were played.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Cevin Key and Justin took their rightful places on stage behind their massive wall of equipment and drums and got to work. There was all kinds of eerie sounds emitting from their gear which transitioned into the first song, “Anger”. There was a screen set up on the left side of the stage and Ogre appeared behind it while lights flashed behind him, creating a silouette on the screen. He had various contraptions attached to him making him look like some sort of character. This goes back to their 1987 tour where he used a similar gimmick and they opened with the very same song while a demented hand puppet attacked him while he was singing. The effect though seemed to work a little better back then, though it was still interesting this time in a different way.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

After that song was complete they went right into a new one from Mythmaker, “Ugli”. The heaviness of this song was only amplified by the live presentation. While it wasn’t one of my favorites on Mythmaker, it sounded pretty damn good in the live atmosphere. Ogre was still behind the screen singing this song which I found to be a bit odd. From there was a little improvisational brapping that morphed into the intro to one of my all time favorite Skinny Puppy songs, “Dogshit”. And Ogre was still behind that screen! At this point I think the crowd were growing a little impatient for him to emerge from behind that thing so they can see him and what he’d be doing on stage. I know for sure that I was.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

From there they went right into the song I was most excited about hearing them finally play live, “Tormentor”! Unfortunately Ogre was still behind that screen but the song came across pretty well live though I think some of these older songs would have definitely benefited from some more vocal effects like they used to use back then instead of having him sing them rather “cleaner” with less processing. That screen gimmick was really getting tired by this point. When it was over Ogre finally emerged from behind the thing with blood on his front and arms and was strapped up with these hoses and contraptions. He was also painted up like a corpse, or a little bit like The Crow. It was a pretty spooky look and this Zombie Ogre stalked the stage while they played another song from the new album, “Politikil”. This song was probably my least favorite on the new album but I was so glad that Ogre finally was out in plain sight that I didn’t care what was being played at that moment.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

From this point forward they played a pretty good mix of some older songs and newer ones. The set list was full of really odd choices and some nice surprises. The real standouts for me was “Rodent” which was another one I always wished they would have played live as well as “Amnesia”. Top of the oddball choices which I would have gladly traded for a better song was “Fascist Jock Itch” which I still think to this day was one of the worst songs they ever recorded. There definitely seemed to be a theme of “mosh friendly” songs which seemed to come at the expense of not only classics like “Addiction” but also at the expense of the two best songs on Mythmaker, “Dal” and “Pasturn”. Strangely they played only one song from The Greater Wrong of the Right, “Immortal”.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Throughout the rest of the set it seemed Ogre was singing from behind that screen every couple of songs. There also seemed to be a lot of technical difficulties with these hose contraptions and at one point Ogre made a mention of nothing working. He also complained about the abundance of green lighting being used on the stage. If there was a theme or a story to be told in this stage show, the message really didn’t seem to come across very well. It felt more like a collection of songs being played with what seemed like a lackluster stage show and theatrics when compared to all previous tours. I imagine the thing with the screen was supposed to represent different characters but it wasn’t really working for me or a lot of people I talked to in attendance that evening. The technical malfunctions certainly would have caused the stage show to come across as less than what was intended.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Where the visuals and presentation may have not been as up to par, in most cases in the audio department they certainly delivered the goods in a big way. Songs like “Rodent”, “Worlock”, “Tormentor”, and “Amnesia” really shined and “Dig It” made a very welcome return and sounded great. “Fascist Jock Itch” didn’t come across very well at all which was made worse by faulty equipment that resulted in the first half of the song not having any vocals.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

The main set ended with “Haze” which sounded really good live, and without the extra heavy vocoder parts, I actually preferred the way the beginning parts were sung live as opposed to the album version. Of the new songs that were played, this one to me sounded the best and was also my favorite of the new songs they played. They left the stage for about five minutes or so and came back for the encore. The encore started with some brapping that led into “Social Deception”. That was an old song I’d never have guessed in a million years they’d dust off and play live again so that was a treat. They then closed the show with “Testure” which has become the staple of their encores for the last three or four tours. The crowd were pleased with that choice as always and it was a pretty good note on which to end the show.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Of the 17 times I’ve seen Skinny Puppy, this show was easily my least favorite. The overuse of that screen coupled with the technical problems left the visual presentation a bit on the flat side. I don’t know if overall it was just a really off night or what. However musically they still delivered the goods and from a pure listening standpoint I was not disappointed. I wish I had the opportunity to catch a few more shows on this tour so I could see what I missed out on due to the problems they had this evening.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

The band’s merch table was well stocked with some very highly priced t-shirts, hats and other items. I bought myself a shirt and when I got home I discovered that I got a defective one where the print was all off center in a huge way and misplaced! Now I’m stuck with a faulty shirt and I have no way to exchange it which was a pretty expensive disappointment. If you are a huge fan, you’ll want to bring your whole paycheck because they have a lot to choose from including Mythmaker vinyl and the new Back & Forth 7 CD’s.

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy
Skinny Puppy

So was the show worth going to? Absolutely! Despite the technical difficulties and the confusing presentation, I was still thoroughly entertained and it was well worth the time and the traffic to see my favorite band in the world put on a show. A less than perfect Skinny Puppy show still rivals a fully perfect show by any other band on the planet. Hopefully they’ll do another leg of the tour later this year.

Larger versions of these photos plus some extras can be found starting this evening on my flickr site.






2 comments

  • For some reason Testure gets played as an encore at a lot of show but the last two times in DC we got Blue Surge instead (which ruled I might add).

  • The vocals cutting out is a result of various stickey liquids ogre uses for his presentation along with beating the microphone like a redheaded step-child. Everytime I see them some portion vocal cuts out. Transmission fluid dumped onto a microphone diaphram is not a forseen quality control testing point.

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