Killing Joke @ The Camden Roundhouse
8th March 2012
Review by Joffie Lovett
Photography by Michelle Murphy
It’s a cold March evening; I’m rushing through traffic to get to the train station to head up to London, but now the wait is finally over and tonight I’ll be getting to see one of the most legendary names in all of alternative music do what they do best. Tonight it’s time to witness Killing Joke live.
Formed in 1979 in Notting Hill, London, Killing Joke started out with the now reunited original line up of Geordie Walker (on Guitar), Paul Ferguson (on Drums), Martin “Youth” Glover (on Bass) and the incredibly charismatic musical genius and legendary frontman, Jaz Coleman. Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1980 they have created a unique sound for themselves mixing elements of Post-Punk, Industrial and Gothic Rock which has created music which has been a huge influence on a long and ever growing list of bands to come after them such as Nirvana, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Tool, Metallica, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Faith No More, Pitchshifter, Rammstein and Korn to name but a small few.
Walking up to the Camden Roundhouse, there’s a ginormous glowing full moon hanging low over London which I think has most definitely given the crowd approaching the venue a heightened level of excitement and enthusiasm. The crowd is a real mixture between intellectual musos of all ages, middle aged ex-punks who have clearly followed Killing Joke right from the beginning and who I can happily say still have the energetic spirit of punk inside them (and many of whom are sporting original Killing Joke and various other band T-Shirts from before I was even born or not long after!) and the odd long haired Goth/Metaller; like myself, dotted around the venue.
Once inside the venue I navigate straight to the merchandise stand to pick up my very first ever Killing Joke T-Shirt and what better shirt to buy than one depicting the artwork from “Laugh? I Nearly Bought One!” of a Catholic Priest being saluted by a group of Nazi Stormtroopers in the true spirit of Killing Joke!
Inside the main live music room you can see immediately why The Camden Roundhouse has been given Grade II Listed status. The building is stunning inside as it contains original Victorian pillars encircling the entire room and beautiful masonry work in the ceiling and roof of the venue, most of which harks back to the days when the venue was actually an old turning station for steam trains, but before I have a chance to admire the venue in too much detail the final support band takes the stage and my eyes are drawn to them (unfortunately due to the traffic in getting to the venue I was only able to see the last support band before Killing Joke).
As the support band themselves did not mention their name whilst performing I can only guess that the band I saw was The Icarus Line, who have a sound not unlike Iggy & The Stooges mixed with heavy rock & blues influences.
Their set starts off well but the first song seems to be the only one that gets any kind of good reception from the crowd.
As the band then seemed to go into what sounded like a free form jam for the majority of the rest of their set.
The crowd lose patience with this very quickly and the heckles start flying at the frontman who seems to take them with a pinch of salt (despite being so hyperactive during their performance that it would be difficult not to suspect a large amount of cocaine within his system for the entire set).
Despite the free form jamming nature of their performance, the live sound is brilliant and the bass guitar and bass drum kicks out of the PA with a real pounding physical force. Before long though the band seems to lose patience just as much as the crowd has with them and proceed to finish their set quickly to give up the stage for Killing Joke.
Whilst the Killing Joke roadies set up for the performance, the crowd are treated to a rare comedy moment of the Killing Joke projected visuals being started by an Apple Mac pop up window rather than the sinister foreboding images that I think they wished to put to the audience. The crowd is in good spirits for the show ahead though and once the technical hiccup is sorted the lights go down and the audience’s adrenaline becomes contagious. Using samples of the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis and The Masked Ball scene music from the movie Eyes Wide Shut, Killing Joke create a brilliant atmosphere for the 2012 apocalyptic theme of their performance.
Kicking straight into European Super State from the Absolute Dissent album, it’s clear to see that the chemistry between the original members is still there in abundance and more importantly all the members look like they’re getting just as much enjoyment out of the music now as they did in the beginning. Jaz Coleman’s vocals are on absolute top form, kicking out his signature raw melodic growls which fire out of the PA at deafening volume. It still amazes me how he has managed to change his vocal style to have more and more of a heavier sound throughout the history of Killing Joke, resulting in vocals now that even many extreme metal bands would give their right arm to be able to perform.
The show then turns towards songs from Killing Joke’s upcoming album MMXII (or 2012 in modern numeric) with Fema Camp and Rapture. The new material does sound good and the visuals to go along with the songs paint a fascinating collage of imagery from catastrophic events such as the Hindenburg fire and 9/11 during their performance of Unspeakable, to footage of aerial bombing and the comparisons of Adolf Hitler and Colonel Gaddafi to Tony Blair and George Bush.
During the performance of yet another song from the upcoming 2012 album entitled Pole Shift the visuals then shift to a more contemplative and spiritual theme of how the occurrence of large scale natural disasters on our planet is increasing and how this will affect all of humanity in the future. It’s during songs and performances such as this that you realise that as a performer and vocalist, Jaz Coleman is not simply singing tuneful lyrics to a variety of loud musical grooves, his performances are like the delivering of a cataclysmic sermon designed to reach into the soul of every single member of his audience with his piercing vacant stare. With his typical sinister energy and rage filled performance, Jaz continues his rhythmic marching across the stage and the crowd can’t help but move in time with him to the heavy groove of songs like Asteroid (which I think had almost everyone shouting the title at the top of their lungs) and Chop Chop.
Despite the new material from MMXII being performed extremely well I personally was a bit disappointed that so much of the set was dedicated to an upcoming album that very few people have heard rather than playing the more well-known crowd pleasers such as Millennium, Pandemonium or Adorations, and unfortunately I missed the second encore where they played Love Like Blood as after the first encore was finished, the house lights were brought up and pretty much all of the crowd were under the impression that it was the end of the show. It does baffle and annoy me slightly (although I still regard Killing Joke as being one of the greatest bands on the planet) that Killing Joke would have left playing Love Like Blood until the final encore when I’m sure they are just as aware as the fans are that it’s their most popular song which should really have been a staple ingredient of the main set itself. The same could also be said with songs like Requiem and Wardance which were also saved until the Encore.
Whilst the overall show was fantastic and I can honestly recommend to any fans of Killing Joke who haven’t seen them live to definitely do so as soon as possible, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed at the fact that so much of the set was taken up with songs from the new album 2012 which very few people have heard tracks from at the moment. So it was a bit difficult to really get into the music if you had never heard the songs before and with a long history and back catalogue like Killing Joke have, these new songs could have easily been substituted for material from their many other albums (for example the set they is included on the recent Down By The River live album recorded at The Royal Albert Hall is far superior to the set that was played at The Roundhouse).
What I will say though is that the experience of seeing Killing Joke live has only enforced my view that not only are they one of the greatest musical acts in all of alternative music with their rich variety of influences and styles, their lyrical content of always challenging the establishment and the status quo and getting their listeners to really open their eyes to what is actually happening around them in the world makes them in my opinion one of the most important bands in modern music as well, and with their energetic performance at The Roundhouse I don’t think there is any sign of them stopping for a long time yet.
Killing Joke Set List:
European Super State
Fema Camp (from the upcoming album MMXII)
Rapture (from the upcoming album MMXII)
Pole Shift (from the upcoming album MMXII)
Corporate Elect (from the upcoming album MMXII)
The Great Cull
Love Like Blood