The Royal Albert Hall provided an essential backdrop for the iconic band to unleash their early great albums
As soon as the gig was announced, there was a massive scramble for tickets as every fan of the band recognised that this particular “gathering” would be special. Killing Joke, like many of their peers, have a real hard core following and they showed their undying determination to assemble in their droves at what turned out to be one of their finest performances in modern times. The venue, iconic, imposing, inspirational. In many ways, very much like Killing Joke. The venue has been the home of music and the arts since it’s inception and has seen many performances by the greatest composers and artists at the top of their game. It was a night dedicated to Killing Joke’s first two seminal albums and promised to deliver much more than just a trip down memory lane.
No band on the planet could have opened for Killing Joke at The Royal Albert Hall, it would have been a daunting task but, to get the fans in the mood, James Lavelle (UNKLE) performed a DJ set. It was meant to be Alex Paterson (Orb), a long time friend and collaborator but like many Killing Joke events, the forces of nature conspired and he was unable to attend.
Jocelyn Pook’s “Masked Ball” always signifies the impending appearance of the band and instantly fires up the audience. The massive screen above and behind the band had flames being projected as the band drifted on stage one by one to “Honour The Fire”! The rapture could be felt spiralling throughout the impressive architecture.
Paul Ferguson clicked his sticks as Roi Robertson’s synth played the pulsing note that signified the opening bars of “Requiem”. I had first heard this song on the radio, played by John Peel, and to date I had never heard it sound better. The powerful PA was in sync with the rooms acoustics and projected the song with perfection. Geordies effortless style delivers the most monstrously crushing chords that are always under pinned by Youth’s thumping bass. Youth’s new bass rig had its inaugural outing earlier in the week as the band played a number of warm up gigs including an intimate show in the legendary 100 Club. As “Wardance” kicked in, it set the tone for the rest of the night. Jaz Coleman’s stage presence was dark and dramatic as he tip toed across the stage with outstretched deformed hands and his trademark demonic stare. The intensity was off the scale and his thousand yard stare was trance like. It looked like there were waves of delirium on some of the faces in the crowd as they immersed themselves in the performance. The bands self-titled first album spawned a great number of songs that are played regularly when they tour but to hear the album in its entirety was something to behold. “Primitive” closed out the first part of the show and signified the end of the bands first chapter.
“What’s THIS for…!” The second album brought a more sinister sound to the fore and its violent brutality demonstrated the malevolence on tap that has surfaced throughout the entirety of their career. “Fall of Because” kicked off with Paul Ferguson’s kick drum reverberating throughout the building and Geordies buzzsaw guitar sounding so cutting as it seared through the ambience. Youth signified the change over between albums by adorning a new bass. He had a fretless Fender Precision made especially for the occasion to replicate the early album sound. It worked a treat as his deep pulsing dub style bass on “Tension” drove the song. The complicated rhythms were executed masterfully as an imposing image of what resembled Bela Lugosi looked down upon the band from the huge screen. Big Paul was in full flow and there was no respite as the heavy tribal drumming of “Unspeakable” maintained the intensity. The non-stop nature of the performance was uncharacteristic of Jaz Coleman in particular as his customary commentary of the state of the chaos on the planet was missing. Apart from one or two interactions, it was a non-stop, no nonsense delivery from the band. The second half of the second album felt almost alien as those songs are rarely played live but the fascination remained. The aptly named “Exit” drew the main performance to an end, it stop abruptly and prompted the crowd to demand more.
Youth engaged with the crowd to thank his fellow band members as Jaz reminded the audience the band were teenagers when they wrote the encore opening “Are You Receiving”. The encore was made up of the early singles and B sides and the band ripped through them to the delight of their following. “Pssyche” has always been a crowd pleasing end to any Killing Joke gig and the bittersweet rendition was as playful as ever as Youth, Jaz and Paul all took their turn on the mic. It was those three that hugged and waved to the crowd as Geordie slipped off behind the kit leaving Diamond Dave to attend to his iconic gold guitar. As Youth waved goodbye, Jaz and Paul embraced each other as they did way back in ’78 when the enigmatic pair started the band.
Killing Joke, often imitated but never duplicated. The band have been quoted as an inspiration by many bands and artists and some of those were in attendance to pay homage to their icons. The band released a new track just days before The Royal Albert Hall appearance signifying that there is no final curtain call just yet. With the world in such turmoil, there’s still a need for a voice of reason to challenge the insanity. Jay Coleman still has a voice and Killing Joke give him that platform, more than a performance, the band are a movement, for the betterment of their fans and perhaps, mankind.
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