One of the unfortunate things about us all getting older is that at some point you have to say goodbye to your favorite bands. A lot of times a band will break up or retire without warning and only in the best of circumstances will fans get advance warning that a band is going to call it a career and go on one final tour. Thankfully for us Skinny Puppy fans, we were given notice that this year would be the final tour for our beloved Pups. Fans scrambled to snap up tickets the minute they went on sale, and in the case of Chicago they went so fast that the band added a second and then a third night! Monday night was the first of three for Skinny Puppy’s farewell to the windy city.
Former Ministry member, and Wax Trax alum, Paul Barker’s Lead Into Gold was the opening act for this tour, and what a great compliment they made for this tour. Playing as a two-piece now, Lead Into Gold played a 45 minute set consisting mainly of newer material, including tracks from their album released earlier this year. The had two screens set up at 45 degree angles on either side of the stage that had projectors casting to them which illuminated the band members in addition to flashing stage lights. The shadows from the band members made for some neat visuals on the screen. The band’s low-end heavy industrial rock sounded excellent. They didn’t waste much time between songs, and Barker didn’t talk much between the songs aside from the occasional thank you, or to introduce the crowd favorite, “Faster Than Light” and make a nod to Wax Trax. The crowd really enjoyed the set and the band is well worth seeing (or showing up early for on this tour).
Warning: This article will feature plenty of spoilers so if you don’t want to know what songs Skinny Puppy played you may want to just skip ahead to look at the show photos below.
Excitement was at an all time high when Skinny Puppy took the stage. The audience was an impressive mix of older fans who have been around seeing the band since the old days, and a lot of younger fans who were seeing the band for the first time and many weren’t even born when the band was at it’s prime in their original run. The band always drew a very diverse audience and this night was no different. It was refreshing to see people of all walks of life gathered together to see these industrial music pioneers take the stage for their final run When the light dimmed and the band took the stage (sans Ogre), people were literally screaming with excitement.
The stage was set up with Justin’s drum set on the left, Cevin Key’s massive podium of gear on the front right, and a big screen/curtain section in the rear center. After a cool sounding intro, the opening sounds of “VX Gas Attack” started and people lost their minds. Girls were screaming, guys were screaming, people were dancing, and others just standing there staring in awe. Lights started flashing behind the center screen and you could see Ogre’s silhouette moving and contorting. At times he seemed to have four arms, and various symbols would appear around him at different intervals. He was back there for the first two songs, and the props that he interacted with changed and included knives, guns, angel wings, a cage, a slice of pizza, and more.
Sonically the band has never sounded better in this incarnation. They had live drums, live guitar, and Cevin’s impressive array of electronics, keyboards, and computers creating a sonic assault that floored the audience, but in the most pleasing and amazingly mixed way. Everything sounded so clear. Ogre’s vocal delivery was as good as ever.
When the band go to the third song, “Tormentor” Ogre finally emerged from behind the screen covered in a cloak and hunched over. You only could catch glimpses of him during this song, but when you did you could see that he was an alien with a giant head. This would get slowly revealed over the course of the next couple of songs where the horned creature that Tormented Ogre on the 2015 tour was doing much of the same to this Alien. The Tormentor was examining the Alien, measuring his eyes and head, taking notes, and then attacking him. After giving the poor alien shock treatment, injections, and more, we finally see the full alien and it was an impressive site. Its eyes even lit up, blinked, and changed colors.
Throughout the rest of the set, which was full of old favorites and even a few songs they haven’t played in decades, the interaction between alien and tormentor continued, culminating in the alien having its throat cut, spewing liquid everywhere, and its brains removed! The whole story was captivating to watch as it progressed throughout one of the best post-reunion sets the band ever put together. Staples like “Warlock”, “Rodent”, and “The Choke” were complimented by the return of such favorites as “Deep Down Trauma Hounds”, “Human Disease (SKUMM)”, and “Dig It” , which was the closing song of the main set. Every song sounded amazing and there was something for just about everyone when it came to favorite songs.
During “Dig It”, the tormentor tied a rope around the alien to hang it at the end of the song, and that was the end of the main set and the end of the alien. The band left the stage, leaving the audience speechless, yet wanting more, lots more. After a short break, they returned for a three song encore, and that was when we finally got to see “true Ogre’ in his regular clothes and see his actual face. The band played one of their all time great live songs, “God’s Gift (Maggot)” to start the encore! Ogre made some small talk and gave a lot of praise and thanks to the audience and fans for giving them a 40 year career, and then they closed the evening with the double shot of “Assimilate” and “Candle”. It was a flawless, 18 song set that really had the band heading off into the sunset on a high note!