As post-punk industrial architects Killing Joke have defied the odds by becoming more relevant with each year’s latest revelation about the global elite and their naughty ways not to mention the post-apocalyptic drift of new millenial life on Earth.
Often anarchic with a sense of timeless eccentricity Killing Joke are an arty industrial cut above so many of their contemporaries, existing in a parallel dimension where iconoclasm means more than having a best-of cd in a layby. In the Joke dimension the Icons are measured in genre-pushing albums, political rants, solvent financials, decade defining popularity (Wardance in the 70s and Eighties in…), and the ability to put on an amazing show.
Live Killing Joke have always delivered the goods, musically they are an incredible force so expectations were high for the the Roundhouse gig in Nov 2018. The venue itself is legendary for hosting some seminal moments in music, a unique and stunning visual appeal of circular industrial bandstand, and some limitations with regard the quality of sound. In essence if you are anywhere other than directly in front of the stage you’re going to have trouble as the sound bouncing around makes punchy bands like killing joke sound out of time, and often out of tune (One imagines it’d be an amazing experience for ambient bands).
The support band Turbowolf, warmed the stage with their energetic mix of 70s guitar grooves and good times. They’re a great festival band whose accessible fun would certainly make you forget the doldrums of a day in a paddock and it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t get good response from any crowd, even supporting Killing Joke. The KJ fans clapped and cheered as the photogenic band left the stage, which is a high accolade from a fan base best described as stalwart.
Killing Joke onstage looked like they played the best set of their lives. The roared, they shook, they became one with the noosphere or whatever herbal exultation they pray to. But in the audience it sucked really, really, badly. Big Paul’s drums normally a metronomic reckoning force (several people come to the gig just to hear him) were side-lined to the extent that the rest of the band was about half a beat out from him most of the time.
Jaz often pushes his voice hard and by the end of the tour it’s sometimes needs a rest, on this occasion he sounded strong but perhaps due to the way the sound swirled around he come across out and random. Geordie always sounds good, he’s a crafty textural guitarist but on the night, without the lock of the bass and drums you couldn’t hear the magic. The same could be said for Youth again a monster musician as millions attest but out of step with Big Paul and Geordie put him away from the rest of the band.
But they soldiered on and in that intensity they triumphed. Killing joke are one of the best bands you can ever see. But fair warning: they are best enjoyed up front and deep in the action.
Killing Joke played at the Roundhouse in London on the Laugh at your peril 40th anniversary tour. Support acts: Turbowolf and Phobophobes
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