Killing Joke – Birmingham Institute – April 2nd 2022
‘Killing Joke is very much music as ritual – raw, uncompromising and precisely-targeted lyrically; and Dr Jaz Coleman, Geordie, Youth and Big Paul, founding fathers of the group and an ongoing influence on both alternative music and (counter) culture in general, show absolutely no signs of mellowing’. The original lineup recently released a new EP fittingly titled Lord of Chaos. Alongside that they are touring, Fighting Boredom were at the Birmingham show, read what we thought below.
Big, white church candles are burning on top of the bass amp. An ambient drone is filling the hall and the attendant gatherers are standing waiting. It’s full, mainly with the people that have followed them for years, you can see it in their eyes, a wild gleam, a hint of chaos, a love for the dance. There’s a sense of belonging as the stage is washed over with a blue light.
The guitar is handed to Geordie, Youth takes up the bass. Paul sits at the drums and Jaz stands centre stage with his back to the audience. The noise rises and they fall straight into Love Like Blood. I think the whole crowd are singing along. The sound and feeling is of a rock solid band, hard and fluid, perfect. Jaz moves like a shaman, this crowd is his. The band match the audience, they look older but no less cool. The song finishes and Geordie chops out the start of Wardance. The crowd explodes. Hardcore. Ritualistic and loved. Everyone is singing, the whole of the crowd have their hands in the air, this is music to march to and they are cracking the walls with it. The drums and bass are locked so tight it hurts as Youth sways and moves to the noise. Geordie stands tall, aloof, staring hard across the room as he makes those sounds reverberate around you. Then there’s Jaz, the vocals are perfect, he’s totally absorbed it all.
They glue your eyes to them, there’s no looking away. It’s a huge sound hitting groove and going with it until they pause to find another. They play stuttering rock’n’roll and then an epic sound but underneath it all is a primal beat, an unstoppable force, a power projected from the band to the crowd and back again. An overwhelming urge to throw yourself into the melee and lose it completely.
I Am The Virus starts and the crowd go bonkers again as Jaz stands stock still staring at them. An aggressive and abrasive sound. It’s a warlike celebration of music and belonging. Reqium is hymn like and overwhelming. Slow and majestic, just as relevant now as when it came out forty two years ago. Forty two years! Just let that sink in for a moment. How many bands owe these four people a huge debt. How many bands have taken up their industrial punk core and spread out with it, that’s why they matter, they were first and on the strength of tonight’s power, they are the best. I haven’t seen a Killing Joke gathering for around thirty years but I feel like these are my people.
The music gets slower and it sounds like the world is caving in. A soundtrack to the world as it is. The four of them are locked together, just playing with an almost psychic bond. The guitar sounds exactly as it should, Geordie not even seeming to break a sweat. They channel chaos and Armageddon, Jaz has been predicting the end times for years, maybe this time he means it. He howls at the crowd, his head back and his scarecrow hair thrown around. Youth grins, he knows what this means. The crowd are destroying each other, we know how to dance and celebrate this sound. They take a bow, grinning but are soon back for a brutal final encore. Brilliant.
All pictures by Martin Ward, all words by Adrian Bloxham.