I had been on the fence for this show for quite some time. Baltimore is about 90 minutes from me and that's smooth sailing. A co-worker tested positive for Covid the week before and I thought I might get it too. However, the day of the show, I still felt good and thought I really should drive up. After a quick post on Facebook, a fellow GF fan offered me his ticket and his parking pass. I'm so very fortunate in life. The drive north took about two hours but the parking was a breeze. I walked over, got a drink and met up with a pair of fans from the FB group. I missed all but the last song from the opening act and the turnover was quick, with Justin and Ben doing their own setup. One guitar case and a full stack for each, three or four pedals for JKB and his MacBook.
The 13-song setlist began with a pair from Purge, I, Me, Mine and another trio of post-breakup songs. All were good, none were great. My favorites were Shut Me Down and Ringer, each was simply crushing. But the newer material, while hearkening back to the old days, only has a handful of songs that truly grab me.
The second half of the show was entirely vintage material and one song in particular surprised me. Dead Head began as song #7 and I have no clue what about this song clicked with me, but decades of Godflesh memories flooded back. The song is perfect, that bouncy feel, Justin's trademark singing vocals and the pummeling bass/drums duo that this band does better than anyone I've ever heard. "I didn't hear voices" played throughout the speakers and the driving Streetcleaner follows, though it remained in the shadow of the prior song.
A song each from the first three releases followed, and all were good. My adjectives are somewhat dimmed, but other than Weak Flesh and Dead Head, none really surprised me and both Spite and the first encore Crush My Soul (one of my least-favorite songs), felt more restrictive and less poignant in their delivery.
However, the chords and drums that followed, changed it all. It took me a few moments, then my eyes widened and I looked over at one of the guys I met and he was smiling at me, thumb raised in the air. I couldn't fucking believe it. SLATEMAN. I bounced around, far too jubilantly for my peers around me, but clearly I didn't care. "Grey machines, dying ocean." My eyes closed, I recalled Justin telling me these lyrics in 1996, an evening that changed my life. "With your hand on my heart, I'll still survive." His voice echoed, red fire projected on the screen behind him. SLATE…Maaaaan." This song made the entire night for me, having never seen it before.
If I had to rank them, this show didn't live up to the prior two, however, that last song will stick with me for the rest of my life.
And as my site turns 28 in a few weeks, my reflection this night was profound. Meeting some fellow fans who were familiar with the site, my life, it's all very humbling.
I had never heard of Skinny Puppy until I got to college in the autumn of 1994. There, I met my roommate, a junior, who introduced me to the band. By that time, unfortunately, their catalogue was essentially complete - their greatest hits having been recorded all in the 1980s, in my opinion.
After a breakup or two, I didn't follow the band and after my roommate graduated in the spring of 1996, both faded into the annals of my life, though I did revisit the band's music as the years marched on. Some of their reunion music is good, but I never considered myself a connoisseur, let alone a die-hard fan. Skinny Puppy's 40th anniversary and farewell tour marked a perfect time to finally see them live and to see this fellow roommate for the first time in 27 years. So, on a perfect spring evening, I drove up to Maryland and met Ted in a bar before seeing the waning moments of Lead Into Gold's final song and an absolutely-incredible performance by SP.
I had a few beers and we traipsed over to the venue, catching up on decades of events in our lives. Paul Barker's project finished up with the catchy Hard Won Decay and the wait began. Shows nowadays feel very timely and the headliner took the stage promptly at 9:30, about when I expected them to arrive. Ogre played the first song behind a white sheet and donned an alien head for most of the show. Its eyes lit up and flashed as a stage actor attacked and prodded him. I was never familiar with the band's stage show and while it was entertaining, I simply bobbed my head happily as I would at any metal or rock show.
I must admit, I would have traded any song on the setlist just to hear Assimilate but other than this omission, there was nary a disappointing moment. A real smattering of choices ranging from the band's entire catalogue, the night's 18 songs spanned the outfit's 12 records. Even newer songs were among the highlights, as i'mmortal and wornin' sounded fantastic. The middle of the set was varied and eventually Ogre let his real personality out. By the end, you could tell they were having fun and enjoying themselves. The guitarist, whose name escapes me, claimed the energy was the best on the tour and our trusty vocalist mirrored these thoughts in both the first and the second encores.
Again, the only downside was the absence of my favorite song. The entire experience was spectacular, with a tremendous, pounding sound and an eclectic, varied audience who were enthralled and engaged. I'm so glad I went and getting to catch up with an old friend was just as awesome as the show itself. A night I won't soon forget.