This Killing Joke article was written by Jack Press, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
The O2 Institute’s Ballroom is lit in dark hues as if it has become a cavernous corner of acolytes awaiting mass with their masters – although these acolytes aren’t so certain of the teachings of their masters underlings as they hide out in the shadows by the symmetrical bars refreshing themselves prior to what is in store for them – a masterclass in post-apocalyptic preaching.
Post-punk gothic legends Killing Joke have been pioneering their scene and prophesising the end of the world for thirty-seven gruelling and gloomy years of torment and torture and tonight they continue to show that they’re the very essence of the totality of the human mind – their life work acting as a catalogue of ‘what ifs?’, as if every song they play is a thesis on the corruption of the media or the undoing of the British and American governments.
It’s inordinately clear then that no one here cares whatsoever about the pop-punk imbued we-are-trying-to-be FIDLAR bang-and-riff musings of Southend-on-Sea quartet Asylums who are more out of place here than a cat would be if it were to walk with dogs and despite their almost-psychopathical maniacal lead singer’s attempts to alleviate the interests of this one-band audience, they fall flat on their faces in a fashion that hasn’t yet gone out of style for them but they definitely need a new wardrobe sometime soon.
If you’ve ever sat and wondered what it would be like to be packed in a tin of sardines, you’d have found out if you were a member of the mass tonight as the crowd became tighter than the noose around the hang-man’s neck as the mere thought of a moment with Killing Joke becomes so undeniably delectable that it becomes impossible to stop yourself edging ever closer to the stage.
Opening with the 35-year old anthemic ‘The Wait’ from their eponymous debut album followed by a hard-hitting play-through of their latest album – 2015’s Pylon – opener ‘Autonomous Zone’, Killing Joke outline their statement of intent from the very beginning of their mass, of their ceremony of the end of the world – they’re here to self-educate us of the horrors of the world in an hour and forty-five minutes.
Looking more like a Z-team version of the A-Team on a day out from the insane asylum, the many characters of Killing Joke leak out from the very moment they grace the stage – from Geordie’s militant stance and stabbing glare to Youth’s wily, wild the-music-takes-me-over act, to frontman Jaz Coleman’s role as the leader of their army; marching, dancing, and growling his way through their whistle-stop career-defining tour that is their set tonight.
Whilst technical difficulties mire the early moments as it becomes virtually insurmountable to avoid the acrimonious bursts of outrage coming from Geordie, Coleman keeps the crowd under his command through his march-a-minute routines that weave in and out of each song. Whilst crowd reaction is extinct in the eyes of Killing Joke, it’s not needed here for we all know what we’re going to get and that is far more important than expecting to be told we’re the best crowd they’ve had so far.
A rare airing of Absence Friends in honour of their former Bassist Paul Raven is a fitting touch and a fine start to an evening of new songs, old songs, and rarities that paint the legacy you’ve undoubtedly heard so much about.
Super-hits like the riff-a-thon Eighties and newer cuts like the industrial-metal slab that is new single ‘I Am The Virus‘ go hand-in-hand throwing the crowd into a frenzy – mosh pits breaking out brutally splitting the front of the crowd from the middle. In fact, Killing Joke’s politically-tinged pyro ignites the crowd that much that a fight breaks out between crowd members.
Ending their set with a triple bypass-causing encore ‘Turn To Red’, ‘Wardance’, and a roar-ripping ‘Pandemonium’ that ends the night the way it started – a crowd of sardines filling out together as if they’ve been enlightened for the next year or so about the way of the world.
37 years in and Killing Joke are still the leaders of gothic post-punk in the way that they’re still so sonically ahead of their peers.