NEW YORK, NY—The bizarre performance-art/industrial music project called Skinny Puppy, now in its third decade, continues to outdo itself in every measure from musical creativity to mind-boggling staging to ghastly offensiveness. The current tour, dubbed “In Solvent See” in honor of the economic crisis, touched down in the City at the Nokia, drawing crowds of the region’s most avid industrial culture freaks young and old, many in full cyber-punk regalia.
The opening act was a heavy-metal soloist backed by a digital audio track going under the name Werewolf Grehv. While he proved his abundant dexterity on the electric guitar, what he mostly produced were cadenzas of structure-less noise with no discernible rhythm.
Skinny Puppy came on a little after 9:30 p.m., frontman Nivek Ogre horrifyingly stooped over an invalid walker, masked and in a huge dunce-cap or Ku Klux Klan hood, depending on how you saw it. If that wasn’t disorienting enough, the lighting consisted mostly of rapid-sequence motion-picture projection that flooded the stage and flickered blindingly, fragmenting the image of the stage set, the musicians, and the props constantly.
Musically, they were at their very best, performing many of their early masterpieces like “Addiction” and “Rodent,” but with rich electronic layers added and exceptionally clear vocals. Ogre’s costume came off in a series of unveilings, each time revealing yet another creepy mask or garment underneath. Less common classics were represented such as “Morpheus Laughing” and “Antagonism,” rather than the expected “Testure” and “Killing Game,” which were conspicuously absent.
Newer material from the latter two albums included the bombastic “Pedafly” and the shocking “Politikill.” “Ugli,” off the 2007 Mythmaker disc, proved offensive to a handful of the audience who quietly arose from their seats and exited the auditorium when religious imagery was projected on to the background screen. “Assimilate” had political overtones, highlighted by images of the stars and stripes on screen, suggesting a critique of attitudes surrounding immigration.
They took a short break around an hour into their show, returning with their greatest anthem, “Worlock,” done in extended version, followed by an unfamiliar piece that featured the monotonous mantra of the word “crazy” repeated again and again. A surprising and satisfying climax was reached with the archetypal “Far Too Frail,” following which Ogre shouted the group’s appreciation to the New York crowd.
Skinny Puppy has gone through break-ups, betrayals, collaborations with other musicians and the destructive withdrawal of key members, even by death. With this, their zillionth live performance in 27 years, Skinny Puppy’s Ogre and cEvin Key have distinguished themselves as the most bold, inventive masters of the industrial style and creators of a unique brand of music that rises above all others of the genre.