Live Review: Killing Joke

New jokes, same punch-line on a triumphant tour.

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“It’s been a really bad year – deaths and suicide,” Jaz Coleman reflects. “Let me share it with you…” He does so not with the relentless, pummelling rush of something from Killing Joke’s new Top 20 album, Pylon, but the purging ritual of 1994’s Exorcism.

His band’s punch-line – the self-destruction and horror that accompanies our all too brief span on Earth – has stayed consistent for 37 years, though his idealistic optimism that we could and should change our ways is clearer. And so his lecture on the “fucking madness” of spending billions on Trident with poverty on the streets precedes the new Euphoria, but could equally serve 1980’s Wardance. Many of the fans ramming the Concorde to its sweaty rafters look like they’ve been strapped in for the whole, gruelling ride.

Staring balefully from the stage like a slasher film killer, Coleman leads The Beautiful Dead’s manic goose-step, then curls his fingers into palsied claws to pull the strings on the crowd’s marionette movements during Delete. The tennis-visored Youth looks more like an affable Englishman briefly back from retirement in sun-kissed climes, but his coldly funky, gliding bass, like Geordie’s guitar’s insect buzz on Requiem, keeps clocking in. For all the passionate intellectual heft Coleman tries to give them, Killing Joke reward remains one of blunt, body-hammering force.

(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)
Nick Hasted

Nick Hasted writes about film, music, books and comics for Classic Rock, The Independent, Uncut, Jazzwise and The Arts Desk. He has published three books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), and Jack White: How He Built An Empire From The Blues (2016).