The Punk Vault

Skinny Puppy – 11/15/23 at House of Blues

Wednesday night was bittersweet because it was the final night of Skinny Puppy’s three night run at House of Blues which also meant that this would be the last time the band plays Chicago as they bring to close a 40 year career. They were of course joined by Lead Into Gold. It was somehow even more crowded than Tuesday night, which means they shoehorned in even more people because you couldn’t move anywhere by the time Lead Into Gold went on stage to start the show. Everywhere you looked there were fans of all ages, many of them wearing Skinny Puppy shirts from all eras of the band.

Lead Into Gold, what can be said about them that wasn’t already said in the last two articles? Paul Barker started this as one of the many side projects he and his former Ministry bandmate, Al Jourgensen were cranking out back in the late 80s/early 90s. They put out a really great EP and a really great LP, all of which Paul handled vocals on (which was atypical for Minsitry side projects) and then that was the end of it for about 25 years. Paul resurrected the Lead Into Gold project alone and has since put out a few really good releases, sometimes with the aid of guest musicians, and has toured a few times in recent years usually revolving around the Cold Waves Festival. Not that there was any doubt, but Lead Into Gold 2.0 really showed that a talent like Barker can easily stand on his own without the input of Uncle Al. The recent records and live performances have all be fantastic and the performances on this tour (which focus heavily on the modern Lead Into Gold material) continue the upward trend. The 45 minute set was identical to the other shows on this tour, which was a very good thing.

Skinny Puppy were one of the pioneers of industrial music in North America and they almost singlehandedly paved the way for this music genre to exist and grow in North America (and to a lesser degree, Europe). No one played music like this in the 1980’s. When Skinny Puppy toured the first time in 1985, Ministry was just starting to transition from their synth pop beginnings into an industrial dance band (before transitioning yet again into the band we all fell in love with in the late 80s). The fact that a band this dark and unique with its legendary bloody theatrics got signed to a major label was amazing, but that helped them kick down the door and reach a broader audience.

Pick a band from the golden years of industrial music and you can bet the farm that they were influenced by Skinny Puppy. Nine Inch Nails and Ministry wouldn’t have become the huge bands they became had it not been for Puppy, hell NIN’s first ever live show was opening for Skinny Puppy! While Skinny Puppy sadly never achieved the mainstream success that the aforementioned bands later had, they had a very loyal fanbase that stuck with them through thick and thin, and mourned their loss when they disbanded for the first time in 1995. It was that rabid and loyal fanbase’s want for their return that lead the band to do a one-off reunion at a German music festival for the founding members, Nivek Ogre and Cevin Key, that eventually led to their reuniting (at least part time) for a series of new albums and tours. The band has been extremely quiet and inactive as a unit since 2015, with both members focusing on their respective solo projects, but thankfully instead of just vanishing, they decided to say goodbye in person and give us all one last chance to experience them live. It is a bittersweet gift, and for us longtime fans, many of whom claim Skinny Puppy as their favorite band, it was a really emotional experience knowing you have to say goodbye while simultaneously soaking it all in and trying to ingrain it into your brain so you will have the memories and the stories to share for the rest of our lives.

The main set was every bit as good, if not better than the previous two nights. Maybe there was something magical in the air with the band and audience knowing this was it for Chicago, a city that was really important to the band and once served as a second home for them in the early 1990s, but whatever it was translated into an even more spine tingling performance than we witnessed the previous nights. Everything and everyone was spot on. It was as perfect of a show as you could ask for.

Speaking of perfect, because Chicago was such an important place to the band, they did something special during the encore for this show that they haven’t done before. After telling the crowd just how much they love Chicago and how pinnacle it was to their career, the band gave us a few something extras in the encore! They played “TFWO”, “Rash Reflection” and “Far Too Frail”, none of which they had done before on this tour, and then still delivered the double shot of “Assimilate” and “Candle”. When they were done, the audience immediately started pleading for just one more, so the band turned around, reclaimed their posts, and finished the Chicago portion of their farewell with “Smothered Hope”. That song was the closing song for many tours in their first run and was the perfect way to say goodbye to us all. I’m not going to lie, my eyes got a little watery at this moment. It must’ve been the idiots vaping inside that caused this, a grown man doesn’t tear up when he has to say goodbye to his favorite band does he?

Thank you Skinny Puppy for 40 years of being musical pioneers. Thank you for blazing a trail that helped form such an exciting music scene. Thank you for challenging the way people think, for opening our eyes and minds. Thank you for being a conduit that brought like-minded people looking for a sense of belonging together that resulted in relationships and friendships that will outlast your years of being a band, and thank you for four decades of amazing music and even more amazing live shows. Life changing will never be enough to accurately describe you.


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