On the evening of Monday June 21st I walked to Irving Plaza and got myself a (pricey) ticket to see the legendary Skinny Puppy perform in NY for the first time in who knows how many years... Their new record is a bomb and they haven't played together in 8 years so the venue was packed with a pretty young (on average) and goth/punk/electro crowd, even on a Monday! The first band (whose name I didn't quite catch - the site said Otto Von Schirach - does anybody know?) was a one-man laptop artist with heavily treated down-pitched gore vocals and a chaotic approach to digital hardcore with influences of ambient anr rhythm-noise. His Hearts of Darknesses meets Aphex Twin meets Shapeshifter sound was quite interesting at times, especially when he'd go down the more rhtyhmical routes (which unfortunately only represented about half of his otherwise improv-noise set). After about four tracks and a bunch of noise in between them, ex-NIN Chris Vrenna and his project Tweaker took the stage by storm and that was really good, I must say. I wasn't familiar with the latest Tweaker music, but they really surprised me. With a stage set up that saw the singer singing behind and above the drum set (a choice that would be unusual if the leader wasn't the drummer) and a line up that included a dark and solid bass player, an involved and talented multi-instrumentalist guitar/keyboard player and the amazing and powerful Chris Vrenna, Tweaker got heads moving quickly and really made the wait for Skinny Puppy worth while... The music had beautiful electronic arrangements, rough and artistic guitars and top notch drumming, ranging from furiously tribal to precisely electronic. Vrenna was hitting both pads and real heads, triggering lots of sounds and samples that would create gorgeous rhythmical patterns and displayed great synchronization abilities. Finally the singer's performance was convincing as well; in his white suite and with good lighting, he screamed, whispered and sung through the tunes with great presence... Think of him, and in part of the rest of the band's music too, as a blend of Stabbing Westward, Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. Great band indeed.
So after the techies broke down Tweaker's backline the floor was getting hot for Skinny Puppy (whom I had never had the pleasure to see live) and when they finally came out the place went nuts. The music exploded and so did the stage and its lights (thanks to four synched blinder arrays). A good drummer (even though my heart is set for Tweaker's drummer for tonight), a dude playing both heavy metal electric guitar and bass at the same time (with a double-neck guitar+bass instrument) and of course the two geniuses: cEvin Key who was busy with a fully equipped rig of two laptops, a keyboard, trigger pads and all sort of christmas lighted outboard gear (from the back of the room where I was standing to avoid the violent mosh, it I could only see an Electrix filter) and Nivek Ogre, who sung the first song from backstage and showed up only for the second song with a scary-looking, mind-blowing and impressive costume... While the tunes of the new album (and a few others) followed each other, Ogre was getting progressively un-dressed and half way through the show he was dipping his hands and arms in blood-looking liquids, playing with fake weapons and gas masks, blowing flour around and interacting with the screen behind him, which had a live feed of an on-stage camera pointed at him and re-producing a treated version of what it was capturing plus several, and of course and thankfully extremely political, shocking and thought-provoking video clips. The choice of lighting wasn't bad but it pretty much left everybody except Ogre in the dark. Ogre's performance was absolutely eyes-popping and made up for the surrounding darkness. His swift crab-style side ways movements, his puppet-like arm movements, his extremely theaterical approach to the performance, his facial expressions, his rubber-ish gestures, his clothing and his style are so damn charismatic and unique that you'll never forget a concert like this for as long as you live. Think of him as a happy mixture of Keith Flint, Nick Curri, Stefan Ackermann and others, even though it is really Ogre himself you'd have to think about, as he's unique and if anything, source of inspiration to others.
Fans were in for a real treat tonight when Joey Ramone-looking un-announced surprise special guest star Al Jourgensen showed up on the stage to play guitar on a track: the place just went insane for a minute! There you have it, three of the greatest characters of the industrial music history in the world, together on the same stage!
After about 75 minutes of concert they came back for a pretty long encore with a different costume (flourescent strings and a huge Star Wars-style head-looking hat).
In other words it was a jaw-dropping experience that everybody should make once in their life. It was worth the price I paid and I am so glad I attended: Skinny Puppy really is industrial at its best!
Photo taken by Alex Veronac/Hyphen.One Studios