Legendary industrial trio Skinny Puppy returned to D.C. to perform for the first time in nearly a decade. Their new record, “The Greater Right of Wrong,” is their first release in eight years.
The 9:30 club was nearly packed June 22 with goth scene veterans and newcomers, which was surprising for a Tuesday night.
Opening with the first track “I’mmortal” off their new album, Puppy swallowed the crowd with a single heap of audible terror. Original frontman, Nivek Ogre appeared on stage halfway through the first number in a costume that looked like Big Bird starring in the video for “The Beautiful People.” Also joining him on stage was original percussionist cEvin Key, as well as two touring musicals.
While the tunes of both new and old followed each other, Ogre was getting progressively un-dressed, and half way through the show began dipping his hands and arms in what looked like blood, playing with weapons and gas masks, blowing flour around, and interacting with the screen behind him, which ran a live feed from an on-stage camera pointed at him and created a treated version of what it was capturing. In addition, the band also added several disturbing video clips of the Iraq war and dark computer animations of the band.
The night’s light show was nothing to brag about, however. Most of the band was left in the dark, except for Ogre, whose performance was absolutely eye-popping. His swift, crab-style sideways movements, puppet-like arms, over dramatic facial expressions and rubber-like gestures left the audience with a concert experience they will never forget.
The same cannot be said for the opening band, however. Ex-Nine Inch Nails member Chris Vrenna and his band Tweaker took the stage before Skinny Puppy. Most of the crowd was clearly unfamiliar with the band and were surprised by the lack of stage presence a group with a musician of such caliber produced.
While the stage setup had Vrenna singing behind and above the drum set and a strong lineup, Tweaker did nothing but bore the crowd and make the wait for Skinny Puppy almost unbearable. Though the music had beautiful electronic arrangements, rough and artistic guitar-playing and top-notch drumming, ranging from furiously tribal to precisely electronic, the quartet could not salvage any energy.
After the stagehands broke down Tweaker’s minimal backline, the intensity on the floor was growing in anticipation of Skinny Puppy. When the band finally made their appearance, the venue nearly exploded with an excited fury.
After Puppy’s hour-long set, they came back for a fairly lengthy encore, this time taking the stage in different costume. Multicolored fluorescent lights outlined the central nervous system of the singer’s body, capped off with headgear that mostly resembled a space helmet. Finally around midnight, the band exited the stage for the night, leaving a messy trail behind and a mass of concertgoers very pleased.