Ether 2011: Killing Joke

Royal Festival Hall, London - 1 April 2011

"This band somehow create a sound larger than the universe"

The very thought of seeing the mighty Killing Joke at the Royal Festival Hall on All Fools Day is something, initially, to be taken with a sense of humour. After a successful afternoon touring Samuel Smith’s establishments, we arrived at the prestigious and luxurious venue just in time to miss the support band, but took our seats and awaited Killing Joke’s emergence.

On the large backdrop screen, the cover of their latest release Absolute Dissent was displayed in all it’s glory. The massive crucifix adorned with tannoy speakers, surrounded by billowing explosions was accompanied by a Bladerunner intro soundtrack. The atmosphere, despite being a restrained seated venue, was electric. The calm before the storm!

With over 30 years of experience and material under their belts, Killing Joke are never bound to fail to please, and in front of an almost full house, the founding four members made their way onstage and let rip in to Unspeakable from the What's THIS For...! album. To the solid barrage of Big Paul Ferguson’s drums and Youth’s bass, Geordie’s guitar cut through like a slightly rusty sabre, right to the very heart of the machine. Jaz Coleman, dressed in full camouflage uniform and trademark warpaint, paced the stage like a terrorist of noise, a commander of the mass, his voice never strained or faltering. On a busman’s holiday from Inertia, keyboardist Reza supplied some razor sharp melodies whilst looking almost like Dave Gahan’s long lost brother with his red and black quiff intact. This band somehow manage to create a sound larger than the universe, without being just an assault of ear-shattering noise, more powerful than any metal band, more commanding than any battlefield General, and still keep you dancing.

Throughout the show, the video backdrop kept in faith with the songs, adding to the atmosphere of each track whether it be scenes of war, Fred Astaire dancing to Wardance, or the iron Thatcher dictating the Eighties. The set was a good mixture from over the 30 years of Killing Joke, and of course featured songs from their latest album. It was a slight surprise to get Love Like Blood as the second song in the set, but it did make you aware that there must be more gems to come. And there were!

The complete setlist ran thus: Unspeakable, Love Like Blood, Change, Wardance, Communion, Bloodsport, European Super State, This World Hell, Fall of Because, Ghost of Ladbroke Grove, Madness, Requiem, Primitive, The Great Cull, Asteroid, Depth Charge, The Wait and  Psyche. As an encore, two more crowd pleasers in the form of Eighties, and Pandemonium.

After the 80 minute non-stop ride the auditorium lights came back on, and we suddenly realised that the voodoo trance was over. For nearly an hour and a half we had been totally under the spell of the mighty Killing Joke, oblivious to external problems, war, disasters, and stresses. This is a band that cannot be ignored, and should not be ignored. It’s no wonder that their influence has spread far and wide, from NIN to Franz Ferdinand to Nirvana to my very own band. One more pub followed, and the last train home at midnight, content in the fact that the gig exceeded all expectations tied to a seated theatre. We lived like Kings and Queens. 9/10 

Baz Dedhevan