FEBRUARY 28th 2014
SHAPES OF ARMS TOUR 2014
Review by Anka
Photos by Peter Ruttan
When you have the name “Skinny Puppy” on the bill of the “Shapes for Arms Tour”, you don’t really need to think twice about attending. Whether it’s just nostalgia for the now grown up goth kiddo, or in most cases just the urge to see the favorite long-reigning legends of electro-industrial, the risk of ending up disappointed is zero.
This was probably the show with the most diverse crowd I have seen so far, and probably one of the most memorable. Skinny Puppy’s return to the home town was a sold-out success.
Opener Army of the Universe was more than I had hoped for, in all honesty. I only found out their name when I walked into the already packed Commodore Ballroom. One could think the Italian electro-industrial group had a pretty tough mission opening for Skinny Puppy, but these guys owned it and in the end it worked out pretty well, leaving aside the stillness I noticed in the crowd watching their show peacefully from start to finish. This calm demeanor of the crowd was something that would baffle me ‘till the very end of the show but at the time I wouldn’t have imagined the extent of this scenario.
Army of the Universe’s music is definitely on the “heavier” side since they employ the electric guitar and real drums and the pounding rhythms encourage some pretty intense headbanging sessions (ask the guitarist!)
After a long break with much needed time to set up the stage for the headliners, we finally got the first electro “shocks” from Skinny Puppy. As the crowd gathered to watch them take the stage, the place was flooded with trippy strobe lights, fog and screen projections. With the first electronic sounds mixed with the distorted live instruments, there came vocalist Nivek Ogre, wearing a mantle coverup and his bead-eyed mask, indeed an eerie presence but oh, so compelling. A few mask changes and a wolf fur later, with such a theatrical display and being doused in a hallucinating whirl of synths and beats, you are fully absorbed into the Skinny Puppy “stream of consciousness”.
In this assault of abstract visuals, the performance feels surreal at times, and if you get to decipher the meaning of the projections or manage to somehow associate those to the song, then you are in for the ultimate fan experience. Otherwise you can simply choose to dance, because it becomes very difficult to stand still. There’s so much light yet there’s darkness in the music, there’s aggression but also fluidity, and that can get overwhelming but in a very pleasant way.
As a result of this mix of experimental sounds and heavy beats, beautiful melodies and otherworldly vocals, there’s something that is mesmerizing in the Skinny Puppy show. Perhaps this explains why people were relatively non-responsive and appeared inert during the entire performance. Surely – they were watching and listening in awe, and that is something I had finally come to understand.
And yet, noting is blatantly ostentatious. There’s a real live band and the perfect balance of sampling and melodies all integrated into this performance you get to watch and experience with all your senses. It’s engaging, and you will feel that even if it doesn’t translate into your physical reactions.
It was my first time seeing this band, but it doesn’t compare to the other 20-30 times others have seen them. However, given the great shape they are in, and their uncompromised art remaining as relevant as ever, I have no doubt I will be seeing them again. This is the complete package for a live show, a unique experience, and it should at least be a once-in-a-lifetime effort for most people, regardless of their age or music preference.