Feb 2014 21

Center Stage, Atlanta, GA, 2014/02/04
 
Skinny Puppy - Live in Atlanta, 2014

 

Between the back-to-back snow storms that shook the Southeast, Atlanta was taken by a storm of a different nature: an electro/industrial storm over 30 years in the making by the name of Skinny Puppy. The Vancouver legends had stomped their way from West to East since the end of January, swapping out DJMREX for label mates Army of the Universe for the February leg of the tour, beginning at the Center Stage in the heart of Atlanta. After the previous week of weather-imposed house arrest, the citizens of metro Atlanta were more than ready for the ruckus, filling the large venue from the very start of the show.

 

Italian/Los Angeles transplants Army of the Universe led off the night, feeding the already eager crowd with an industrial dance sound opening with the previously unreleased track “Acid Flows.” Vocalist Lord K kept the audience engaged while guitarist Davide Tavecchia dominated the stage, all backed by Albert Vorne’s pulsing electronics. The trio performed hits from the debut release such as “Lovedead” and “Dust in the Universe,” as well as tracks from the sophomore album, “The Hipster Sacrifice” and “A Visionary Story,” and the newest single “Uniforms,” complete with spinning club scarves (soccer scarves for the American audience) emblazoned with the single name in a bit of onstage merch promotion, but it got the crowd going nonetheless. Vorne occasionally stepped away from the console to don what can be best described as a laser-guided keytar for multiple songs, giving the audience a laser light show to the rhythm of the music. AOU closed out with “Hollywood Drama,” giving the audience time to revel in the energy while the stage changed for the final act.

 

If the venue was full at the start, it was now utterly packed, the crowd a single sea of swarming souls mashed together on the floor. While the audience was serenaded by trip-hop and ambient electronics, the stage was set with video screens, mad scientist equipment, and the iconic Skinny Puppy model. The screens eventually flickered to life, revealing security-feed footage on all angles of the stage. The back wall lit up in flowing digital light and cEvin Key took to his platform as the opening chords of “Choralone” seeped through the speakers. Suddenly the chords gained a pulsing beat through a blend of Key’s electronics and Justin Bennett’s drums, and Nivek Ogre stalked to the stage – masked, cloaked, and armed with a biohazard umbrella and a machete, like some demented Cirque du Soliel centerpiece. “Choralone” shifted into “illisiT,” and the audiovisual theatre of Skinny Puppy began.

 

Skinny Puppy’s show is not a just show of sound, but of light and character and movement. Ogre changes costumes numerous times throughout the performance with little to no delay in the music, moving and combining and transforming items on the stage in some abstract story progression that possibly on the band will ever understand. Throughout the set, Ogre went from raincoat-clad slasher to werewolf, from masked maniac to mad scientist. Chemicals were mixed and drank, emaciated dog sculptures were placed on pedestals, mysterious boxes were worshipped, and screens were set and shifted to match the visuals. The music volleyed back and forth, from the band’s earliest hits of the ’80s including “The Choke,” “Deep Down Trauma Hounds,” “First Aid” to the most recent releases from the Weapon album, such as “Wornin’,” “ParagUn,” and “SaLvo.” Skinny Puppy had the crowd eating out of its hand the whole way through, the room swept up in the performance. Never before has this writer seen a room so full move so in unison to the beat.

 

After being encased in a box and dragged away by the end of “Solvent,” Ogre, Key, and Bennett returned to the stage to the roaring demand for encore, this time without gimmick or get-up. Ogre thanked the audience for its support over the past 30 years and treated the crowd to an encore of ’80s hits “Far Too Frail,” “Glass Houses,” and “Smothered Hope” before rounding the evening out with the 2013 track “Overdose.” The night drawn to an end, the crowd dispersed. For some, this was the first exposure to Skinny Puppy; for others, this was the latest in a chain spanning back decades. Without a doubt, though, this was the most visually theatric and stunning show the industrial genre had to offer, and it proved just why Skinny Puppy is considered by many the top of the genre and the kings of the scene.

 

Zak Vaudo (Chaostar)

 

 
Skinny Puppy

 
Army of the Universe

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