Images by Dan Aitch
Canada’s Skinny Puppy played at the Kentish Town Forum on Tuesday some 35 years into a stellar and standout career, during which their place as one of the first and finest electro-industrial bands was cemented, celebrated and catalogued.
Singer Nivek Ogre remains an onstage mystery and generated a tortured, haunted and genuinely disturbed persona that, if you were unprepared, left you extremely uncomfortable with the level of performance art that Skinny Puppy’s live shows have become renowned for.
He entered apparently wrapped in bandages and masked, plagued by those who would inflict pain upon him and who follow him, almost parasitically, as they wounded and wore him down. It wasn’t long before he was attached to multiple syringes that, while gradually adding to what he was wearing, provided a contrast to his slow and deliberate unmasking; this juxtaposition created the impression that the more Ogre had to weigh him down and cause him pain, the more of him was revealed.
It was a punishing performance, for all in attendance.
The devotion in this band’s audience was clear to see and while the music was mesmeric, hypnotic, shamen-like and rhythmic, the audience reaction was almost as hypnotised, swaying and writhing en masse to mirror the desperate struggles we were witnessing onstage.
It was a memorable evening and, for me at least, it was made all the more startling by guitarist Matthew Setzer. While Ogre was the tortured soul of the band, struggling with inner demons and anguish, Setzer was the outward manifestation of that fight; animated, aggressive, frenetic, constantly moving and the simplest visual definition of ‘live wire’ that any guitarist has been in my last few years of gig-going.
It was an astounding performance, an astonishing evening and one that I wish I could re-experience more often. I’m mystified as to why I didn’t find Skinny Puppy sooner in my life but I’m determined to correct that absence as regularly and as soon as I can.