A yellow-and-black fallout umbrella. Hazmat suits. Gas masks. Faux animal skins. Simulated self-mutilation. Anxiety-inducing visuals projected on a white backdrop.
Welcome to a Skinny Puppy concert, where theatrics have always been a major selling point. This was a show to remember, satisfying for old fans and new fans alike.
The electro-industrial music pioneers — cEvin Key on synthesizers and electronics, Nivek Ogre on vocals (and theatrics) and long-time touring drummer Justin Bennett – brought their Live Shapes for Arms tour to the Ogden Theatre on Monday. The band is promoting its latest effort, “Weapon,” released in May of 2013.
The album harkens back to the Canadian band’s early work, specifically its debut album “Remission” — the band even recorded a modern version of the track “Solvent” off the EP. As the title suggests, the new album touches on subjects of armaments (drone warfare) and wide-scale disaster (Fukushima radiation). These themes came through loud and clear on the stage.
Skinny Puppy began its career-spanning set on Monday night with an instrumental version of “Choralone” from 1989’s “Rabies,” then launched into the amped-up “Illisit” from “Weapon.” Aside from a host of newer songs, the band played through several fan favorites from early albums, including “Smothered Hope,” “The Choke,” “Worlock,” “Far Too Frail” and “Glass Houses.”
Key and Ogre are both 53, but it’s clear the band has not lost its edge with age. The duo kept the jam-packed black-T-shirt-clad bodies moving throughout the entire show. The crowd went into a frenzy when the opening synth bars of “Deep Down Trauma Hounds” filled the auditorium. “Those with no rights display the right to have no life,” Ogre sang/growled toward the end of the song. “Do you respect a world committing suicide?”
Skinny Puppy is no stranger to Colorado’s status as being the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana; Key is an outspoken advocate of the stuff. So naturally, toward the end of the duo’s set, when it was clear the haziness in the venue was no longer from the group’s fog machines but from many a vape pen, lead singer Ogre had to acknowledge the crowd:
“Thank you Denver! It’s called the Mile High City for a reason, yeah? Welcome to the new age of marijuana.”
The band came back on stage for not one, but two encores of old “hits.” But before they broke out with their final song, “Assimilate,” Ogre had one final message for the Mile High City:
“Thank you Denver! Keep it green. Not radioactive green – the real green.”
Steve Shultz is a community journalist at The Denver Post and a new contributor to Reverb.
Todd Radunsky is a Boulder-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.