Killing Joke – Live Review – Leeds O2 Academy
By Victoria Holdsworth, April 2022
They say the old jokes are always the best, and now well over their 40th year together as a band, Killing Joke proves the maxim remains true at a packed out Leeds O2.
There is an upsurging roar as the band take to the stage, with their carefully crafted lighting arrangements, adding a certain atmosphere to every move.
Here is a band who still has a lot to say and plenty of energy as they head straight into the instantly recognisable ‘Love Like Blood’. With its brooding lulls and haunting spikes, the stage is flanked in red alternating lights. Enigmatic frontman Jaz Coleman hellishly hits every note with his dark echoing vocals, which reverberate through every square inch of the building. He stalks the stage, ready to unleash his demons at a moment’s notice.
Tonight is going to be deafeningly loud!
No time for pleasantries just yet, as ‘Wardance’, released in 1980 as the band’s first single, sounds just as heavy and fresh today, with its still relevant and poignant lyrics: ‘The food runs short / And then the money talks / One way out / Your premonition is correct’.
Just as the jokes remain the same, it appears that the messages being spoken back still need to be spoken about today. Coleman is the preacher-shaman who is going to tell us how it is tonight. As ever, his trademark boiler suit is looking sharp, with his crazed Iggy meets Alice look holding up well considering he’s into his 60s. But he moves in such a hypnotic way that he is a show in himself, mesmerizing us, before launching into John Peel favourite, ‘The Fall of Because’.
The audience is simmering to a frenzy at this point, and the front of the stage is a mosh pit of 50 year olds, going full throttle to ever note being played.
‘I Am The Virus’, released in 2015 almost foreshadowed the times of today. The lyrics speak for themselves, and are anthemically sung back at the band. A standout tune tonight.
There are some quick greetings to the crowd and a few song intros, but it’s so loud you can’t really hear much anyways, but the talking is kept to a bare minimum throughout the set, so we have wall-to-wall tunes.
‘Requiem’ and ‘We Have Joy’ are raw, unrelenting and menacing 80s post-punk heaven, but unfortunately there is a minor disturbance in the crowd, before normality is resumed, and the amazing ‘Money Is Not Our God’, which keyboard, synth, sample genius Roi Robertson punctuates perfectly, building sections up throughout the song, before tearing them all down, creating a whirlwind of industrial confusion crossovers, which dramatically lend to the charging guitars and bass from Geordie Walker and Youth.
‘This World Hell’ from the Absolute Dissent album, released back in 2010, is brutal and savage and a standout song in the set tonight. There is no wonder why Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor has cited Killing Joke as a major influence and even remixed one of their songs.
There are so many bands who have recreated their own version of Killing Joke over the years, but nothing comes close to the true pioneers this evening.
It is a wall of complete noise when ‘Turn To Red’ lashes out over the sound system, and there are bodies dancing and losing their inhibitions everywhere. The song packs some punchy guitar riffs, carefully woven underneath the chaos going on up top – it’s another exceptional set addition from their vast back catalogue.
‘Mathematics Of Chaos’ from the 94 album Pandemonium glimpses at anticipating the end of times. ‘Total Invasion’ is an absolute cacophony of heavy, dirty, chugged out guitars, with a gripping hypnotic vibe and is just pure brilliance. It shows just how much they have carved their way through so many genres, to the powerhouse they have built today.
‘Loose Cannon’ is another body slamming tune, hard hitting and gritty as hell, and there is no let up towards the end of the set, with ever charging sounds of ‘The Wait’ and ‘Pssyche’.
The energy is now at boiling point, strobes flash across the stage, and we do not have to wait long for the band to return to front of house to unleash three more soul wrenching and ear banging anthems upon us.
‘The Pandys Are Coming’, ‘Change’ and ‘Pandemonium’ finish us off. The quality of the musicianship on show tonight, and the fluidity and precision with which they all play, is second to none. The audience look ready to go to war if asked, and the night ends in full-on assault mode. The charge surging through the O2 tonight is a powerful testimony to a band who has not just survived the generations, they have powered through them, re-inventing and re-igniting along the way.
images: Chris Mackins