Back at the Roundhouse for the 40th anniversary of “Killing Joke’s” birth. Never seen them before so interested to observe them after a long and checked history
Support was provided by one of my faves of the last couple of years “Phobophobes”. I think they were drafted in last minute just for this last London show. They looked slightly nervous in the large space and were met by an indifferent if not slightly hostile crowd who were clearly there for only one thing.
They rattled through a number of the favourites from the album and did actually get the crowd a little warmed up by the end of their set. At times they had four guitarists playing and the sound has clearly become more layered and nuanced over time.
The reliance on the swirling keyboards of Chris OC has been replaced by a more guitar heavy sound, although difficult to know if that was intentional or due to the sound mix on the evening.
The drummer worked particularly hard to give them as big a sound as possible in the voluminous Roundhouse. Honour was acquitted I think but it was probably not their favourite set ever.
Second support was” Turbowolf”, who live reminded me a bit of “Royal Blood”, possibly due to the fact that they seemed to have lost their bass player somewhere (the band did comment on this but did not provide an answer) With two vocalists sharing duties during the set they are a traditional rock act with nods to more flamboyant showmen like Freddie Mercury or visually the frontman reminds me of Eugene Hutz from “Gogol Bordello”, but slightly more sartorial. They tried to rally the audience and again got some reaction but it wasn’t going to be seen as a triumph.
The audience does deserve some comment. It was a Fat white old bloke dominated audience fixed firmly in the eighties. In fact the audience had not weathered as well as “Killing Joke” themselves. It was significantly follicly challenged and numerous people seemed to be dependent on walking sticks and not just as a fashion statement.
9.15 and the headliners hit the stage. Jaz Coleman has changed his persona over the years and in black boiler suit emblazoned with a large white symbol on the back, was channelling Alice Cooper with black eye make up and shoulder length black hair.
I’m assuming they have mellowed over the years but they lay down the backing tracks with metronomic precision but still with a level of freshness, considering the older songs are 40 years old. Jaz introduced the rest of the band, the original line up of Geordie, Youth and Paul Ferguson thanking them for their support on the tour. He introduced a number of the songs with apocalyptic anecdotes about the power of the deep state and the ineffectual nature of western democracy.
All of this stage craft has clearly been honed over many years but they do retain an edge. They remind me for some reason of a previous incarnation of “The Prodigy”. They are in many ways musically flirting with various forms of dance music to my ears. Even songs such as “80’s” have riffs which played at speed are eminently danceable. As I haven’t followed them since I bought the first album back in the early 1980’s perhaps my views are incorrect or just a statement of the obvious for the more discerning.
The sound they produce is clearly of its time and if you look at reviews of subsequent albums critics can generally find only a couple of decent songs amongst the musical meanderings. One review found the second side of their eponymous first album wanting in this respect to their taste.
On the night they have enough material to deliver a high energy quality performance. After the first song I was questioning why I was there but the next 70 minutes went quickly as I got into the zone. Having been a long week I did leave before the end and the inevitable rendition of “Wardance” which is probably the most famous and evocative of their songs. Pricey ticket so unlikely to see them again but they controlled the room and worth seeing if you can.
Set List (courtesy of Setlist.fm)
- European Super State
- Autonomous Zone
- New Cold War
- Follow the Leaders
- Loose Cannon
- Corporate Elect
- The Wait
- The Death and Resurrection Show