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Review & Photos: The legendary Skinny Puppy bring final tour to sold-out Cleveland crowd

APRIL 29, 2023
By Neil Shumate, OOTB Publications

After 40 years of lighting the torch for industrial dark wave electronic music and bringing artistic theatrics and haunting visuals to cities everywhere, underground legends Skinny Puppy are putting the light out and calling it a night. Beforehand, the duo is going out with a bang; saying farewell with a series of tour dates. Last night’s sold-out stop showcased the band’s respectable and humble dominance of the genre.

Although less riveting than pastimes, the onstage theatrics were still mysterious and eerie. Ghoulish, abrasive sounding vocalist Nivek Ogre wore a dark Warlock cloak resembling Darth Sidious early on and later sported an extra-terrestrial mask, looking somewhat like Guild Navigator Edric. The giant head covering had lit eyes that often changed colors. 

Stage props were at hand to energize the fittingly dimly lit set, including the band’s traditional upward screaming animal statue and radiant tube vials. Ogre was joined by an unknown gas mask wearing character that probed, examined, choked, inoculated and beat Ogre’s alien character to a pulp throughout the night. 

During some songs the characters were behind a tent-like white sheet, making only their cryptically moving shadowy figures and motions visible (similar to the silhouetted style seen in the Rocky Horror bedroom scenes).

cEvin Key’s live EBM mixes, alongside touring drummer Justin Bennett and animated guitarist Matthew Setzer, transformed the House Of Blues into a night club for nearly two hours, with occasional perpetual Throbbing Gristle vibes. Many eras of the Skinny Puppy catalogue were spun, including: 1984’s “Smothered Hope,” 1986’s “Dig It,” 1990’s “Tormentor,” 1992’s “Inquisition,” 1996’s “Hardset Head,” 2007’s “Pedafly,” and 2013’s “Wornin’.” 

Before the encore—which included classics “Candle” and “Assimilate”—Ogre returned to stage out of costume to introduce the band and express Skinny Puppy’s gratitude for the supportive fan base of four decades.

A superlative conclusion to a remarkable tenure that has taken on controversial hot topics (war, animal rights, guns, pharmaceuticals, chemical warfare, the environment and other subjects) and a career that has paved the road for many—both musically and visually as shock rock.

Paul Barker’s (ex-Ministry) Lead Into Gold opened with a danceable 40-minute set having sustained, gloomy vocal effects and catchy musical chorus breakdowns.

SKINNY PUPPY  (click photos to enlarge)



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