Saturday, 17th November, 2018
Review and Photography by Graham Hilling
I’ve not been to the Roundhouse for a while and had forgotten what an impressive building it is. A fitting building, indeed, for Killing Joke to celebrate their 40th birthday and that’s what I’m here for tonight. There’s a steady stream of punters making their way into the building as I arrive, although most are being held from getting into the main space of the venue because Phobophobes are still sound checking.
When we eventually do get in, the stage is nicely decorated with a couple of simple but effective banners, one on each side of the stage, the left one reads KILLING and the other reads JOKE. Very nice, simple, understated but very powerful.
Anyone who has given some thought to what an appropriate support band for Killing Joke would sound like can leave their preconceptions at the door. This evening both support bands are about as far from anything you might have thought up as you can get.
First support comes from South London’s Phobophobes. Comprising of a slide guitar, 3 standard guitars, a bass, a keyboard and drums, you’d expect the sound to a be wall, but it is surprisingly well controlled.
The style of music varies considerably, sometimes the slide guitar takes us almost into country territory, the keys take us in a completely different direction and the guitars on top pull against everything.
Top it all off with the vocals of Jamie Taylor and you have something that is pretty difficult to describe, certainly with any accuracy. Inside all of this are some pretty interesting musical hooks though and these do shine through.
Sadly, there are few people to hear them inside the cavernous confines of the Roundhouse. Most punters choosing to arrive closer to the time Killing Joke are scheduled to appear on stage. Undeterred though, they bash through a shortish set which definitely showcases the band pretty well.
Next up are Turbowolf from Bristol. The last time I’d seen these guys was in 2011 and, to be honest, I couldn’t remember much about them, plus it was so long ago that I’d expect quite a bit of progression! Comprised of drums, a guitar and keys / vocals, there’s an interesting juxtaposition with Phobophobes and their multi-layered sound.
Chris Georgiadis (keys and vocals) leads the band in the most exuberant fashion possible, dancing around the stage pulling some interesting dance moves! The guitar is super fuzzy, making up for the lack of bass and the drumming of Blake Davies is without doubt the highlight of the set (for me at least).
This evening they also have a guest vocalist in the guise of Chantal Lewis-Brown (who normally fronts Vodun) and her vocals definitely do add a bit of refinement into the sound. Georgiadis tries to rally the crowd with a “hands in the air…” cry which is met, sadly, by a large chunk of indifference.
While the crowd is now getting to sizeable proportions, it is still pretty obvious that most are really only interested in seeing Killing Joke this evening.
Anyway, Turbowolf soldier on with a sound that mixes so many genres that, once again, it is difficult to describe with any accuracy. There’s a good helping of fuzzed up metal, a bit of punk, a bit of funkiness and a lot of fun, all ground up and spat out.
Blake Davies and his drum kit does a fab job of keeping everything just tamed enough to stop it all spiralling out of control. By the time their set finishes, however, there is only one thing on most of the audience’s collective mind: what time are Killing Joke on stage…..
So, to Killing Joke. 40 years, I can hardly believe that. The “Turn to Red” 10 incher was one of the first bits of vinyl that I bought. I feel like I have almost grown up with this band! So, for a 40th celebration, most people are expecting something a little bit special and it’s pretty obvious from the get go that we’re not going to be disappointed. With the band on the stage, Jaz Coleman cheekily peeks around one of the amps before making his way into the spotlight.
Starting with “Unspeakable” with it’s rolling tomtom drumming, it’s classic Killing Joke and a hook line that everyone can join in with. Coleman introduces the almost Europop of “European Super State” with some words around how the world is changing.
I think most of the times I’ve seen Killing Joke before, Coleman has made remarks about the end of the world etc etc. With the current climate, however, this has more resonance than it has in the past and is definitely thought provoking.
“Eighties” gets everyone singing again and Coleman introduces “New Cold War” with the chilling words…”Elon Musk said a 3rd World War was inevitable…..”. “Requiem” is next up, and once again the crowd is in fine voice. Coleman reminds everyone that “whoever you vote for you get the same instrument….” by way of introduction into “Follow the Leaders”.
The sound, while not perfect, is still very powerful. Geordie plays his guitar with the usual casual approach that is his trademark style; razor sharp sound, cutting through the mix like a knife through butter. Coleman always looks slightly unhinged and at times throughout the set looks ready to explode with rage.
Youth is his usual self and the drums of Paul Fergusson pound along, setting a framework for the rest of the band to build on. There is also a keyboard player off to stage left, although I’m not sure who this is.
“Loose Cannon” picks up the pace and provides an opportunity for more singing before “Labyrinth” takes the set in another direction. The introduction to “Asteroid” gives Coleman another chance to chat “…there is something very wrong with this world, but it is much bigger than you think!” Then “Asteroid” with its great “Asteeeerrroid!” chorus just begs the audience to participate!
And then we’re into the concluding part of the set, with classic after classic: “The Wait” (played at a pace!), “Pssyche” and “The Death and Resurrection Show” build to the band leaving the stage for a short period before returning for the encore.
We get “$.O.36” along with the inevitable “Wardance”. Another very impressive gig by a band that seems to have defied time to still stay relevant and as important today as they were 40 years ago. All of the songs sound fresh and there’s no doubting how good Killing Joke are live. Awesome stuff.