Born in the slipstream of punk’s first wave, Killing Joke never slotted into any genre straightjacket.
Their proto-industrial pulse was a huge influence on Reznor, Hetfield and Cobain – their singer, Jaz Coleman, a countercultural harlequin in the fine tradition of great British eccentrics.
The band – now operating with their original line up of Coleman, Geordie Walker, Youth and Paul Ferguson – operate in their own time stream, creating music as vital as anything in their early years.
2010’s Absolute Dissent was an example of Killing Joke’s supreme creative power and a new album, MMXII will be released in April.
Opening with the electro-stomp of European Super State (from Absolute Dissent), was a brave move last night, given the crowd were no doubt lusting for more ‘classic’ material.
But KJ have never simply traded on past glories or become a cabaret act like so many of their late 70s contemporaries. And their music – both old and new – blends together seamlessly anyway, especially in a live setting, with Geordie unleashing layers of sheet metal guitar, underscored by Youth’s punchy, driving basslines.
There was nothing from 2006’s awesome Hosannas From The Basement of Hell or 1994’s techno-inflected Pandemonium in this performance. Even Eighties was missing from the set list.
But with 14 albums’ worth of back catalogue in their armoury, they had to leave something out… What a busy Academy did get was the fast-paced blitz of Asteroid, a menacing, urgent take on Psyche and stunning new track Rapture, to name but a few.
Coleman was, typically, the main focal point, a jerking, wide-eyed jester in a black boiler suit. There was no stage banter and no lengthy introductions but he remained captivating nonetheless.
In the 1980s he decamped to Iceland to wait for the forthcoming apocalypse, but it seems that Coleman’s taking 2012, the Mayan Calendar’s full stop, by the scruff of the neck, rather than cowering in a bunker.
A messy mix was disappointing though and at times it obliterated the subtleties in Geordie’s guitar playing. However, it did little to quell Killing Joke’s overall impact and certainly didn’t wipe the broad grin from Youth’s face.
Closing with the superbly-crafted Love Like Blood, Coleman’s band of brothers proved once again that, 34 years since their inception, they remain relevant, engaging and utterly compelling.