4th November 2016
Review and Photography by Graham Hilling
As winter starts to bite, there’s no better time for the annual Killing Joke bash in London. Arriving a little before the doors open there is already a sizable queue down the side of the Brixton Academy, however when openers The Membranes take to the stage the cavernous venue still looks pretty empty.
For those that don’t know, The Membranes are an old school punk band that came into existence in 1977, with the exhuberent John Robb at the helm.
Robb has made a name for himself with eloquent and informed commentry on the original punk movement in many television programs and articles.
The Membranes rattle through an impressively energetic set desptite the small crowd. An enthusiasm that is pretty infectious, they go down very well.
Robb has interesting banter with the audience throughout the performance, at one point asking “Has anyone here been into outer space??” before they launch into one of their space inspired songs (sorry, I don’t know which one!).
The sound in the Academy always tends to be a little lacklustre for support bands and there’s no difference tonight with the sound reducing much of the set to a thundering cacophony! Luckily it doesn’t reduce the enjoyment (too much).
Next up on the bill tonight are a band I’ve not come across before, Death Valley High from California.
Their website promises that they merge “traditional goth magic and modern alternative majesty, co-mingling cinematic rock, new wave, and dance music”. This evening though, it’s difficult to see that.
It’s a spirited performance and the audience in the venue has now swelled to a decent size, however, there doesn’t appear to be that much of a connection between band and audience. There’s lots of strutting and mic swinging though.
No surprise here really, the average Killing Joke audience is never going to be composed of lots of young gig go’ers and for the more mature and discerning ears here Death Valley High don’t really hit the mark.
It’s not that they aren’t particularly good, just they don’t really fit nicely on the bill. It probably would have been better if the running order had been switched so that DVH had opened.
Following on from them, there is a gap in the live music which allows a DJ set by LX of the Orb. Alex Paterson (LX) has some history with Killing Joke, roadying with them in the 80’s and attending the same school as Youth. The music is nicely chilled, and reggae overtones set the scene for the climax of the evening and the mighty Killing Joke.
Yes, there’s no doubt that pretty much 99% of the people who’ve made the trip out tonight are here to see Killing Joke. This is a band that has almost become an enigma, with various diversions along their long history.
I’ve seen them play really small venues, medium size venues and now they’re playing huge venues like BrixtonAcademy. They’ve always, in their various incarnations, been a compelling live band for sure. Tonight, this feels like a proper event.
Jaz Coleman is looking quite dapper too, Youth looks like some leftover from a 60’s hippy commune, and Geordie looks like he is completely absorbed in the music (as usual).
His playing style is so relaxed that it is a bit of a juxtaposition with regards the guitar sound that is razor sharp and punctuates the signature Killing Joke sound. The set tonight also reads like a greatest hits list with nothing of any great note missing.
Coleman is chatty tonight, introducing “Eighties” with “welcome to the end of the age of man….” and “Requiem” with, “What do you tell your children when they ask about the future?”
These are little glimpses into the man’s mind. The audience couldn’t be happier though, with pretty much everyone in the now rammed auditoreum singing along. Old favourites like “Change” and “Turn to Red” make an appearance.
All interspersed with more recent songs, all played with a passion and precision that I’ve come to expect. The sound has also improved greatly.
By the time we get to “Complications”, everyone in the venue seems to be joining in with the anthemic choruses. And it just gets better and better, with all my favourite KJ songs echoing around the venue – “Pssyche”, “The Wait”, “Wardance”…. A truly splendid performance wrapped up for another year. Honestly, probably the best show I have been to in 2016.
Love Like Blood
New Cold War
Turn to Red
European Super State
I Am the Virus
Dawn of the Hive
The Death and Resurrection Show