Live Review: Killing Joke - Transhed, Cardiff
28th March 2022
Support: The Imbeciles
Words & Photos: Paul Hutchings
The gatherers assembled. Despite the reasonably balmy temperatures on this late March evening in the Welsh capital, there’s always a dark coolness to an audience with Killing Joke. For a band who formed in 1979, their longevity remains amazing. The band’s first gigs for over three years, and the new ‘Lord of Chaos’ EP the first new music since 2015’s ‘Pylon’ provided enough incentive to provoke a decent turnout for a Monday evening and the first night of the ‘Honour the Fire’ tour, which will see the band conclude at Hammersmith Odeon on April 9th.
Opening for such legendary artists must be something of a double-edged sword. The opportunity to play to guaranteed large audiences is countered by the intense loyalty that a Killing Joke audience summon for their heroes. Regardless of those challenges, The Imbeciles brought their post punk sound to the Tramshed, and their 30-minute set provided opportunity for the early arrivals to sample their wares.
Although it was a rather muted start, once they had gathered their composure and hit their stride, their combination of The Monkees, The Stooges and The MC5 hit a nerve with many in the audience. With the five-piece strung across the stage, there wasn’t much in the way of room for extra expression although vocalist and bassist John Kent swung his bass with wild abandon and founder member Butch Dante did his best to insert some fire into the proceedings with windmilling arms and the odd rabbit jump. With drummer Charlie Culbert nailing the central rhythm, The Imbeciles slowly found their groove, and ensured that by the end of their set the warm applause confirmed that this was job done.
An evening with Killing Joke is more akin to a religious experience than a music concert. There’s a seriousness on the front row, the hardcore Gatherers assembled for an evening of devotion. It’s been the original line up of Jaz Coleman, Youth, Geordie Walker, and Paul Ferguson since 2008 and the band are almost telepathic in their movement and interactions.
It's all eyes on Jaz as the band assemble on stage, his back turned, giant ant painted on the back of his black jumpsuit. They launch into their most famous song, ‘Love Like Blood’, and the church of Killing Joke is suddenly in full voice. It’s a clever move, getting those non-devotees on board early and getting a song which is unrepresentative of their more industrial post-punk sound out of the way. “What comes after a pandemic” quizzes Jaz, before the band kick into the anthemic ‘Wardance’. The place is rocking, arms raised to the sky, pogoing and dancing commenced.
And so, it continues for the best part of two hours. Anchored by the incredibly reliable Paul Ferguson whose drumming is mesmerising, Killing Joke rely on Coleman’s maniacal visual imagery, powerful speeches about the current state of the world and their relentless grinding music to do the necessary. They cover tracks from a multitude of albums, including the new single ‘Lords of Chaos’, as well as fan favourites including ‘Turn to Red’, ‘Loose Canon’ and ‘Pssyche’. A five-song plunder of 1980’s eponymous debut shows that the band’s music is rather timeless, slotting in alongside more recent tracks from ‘Absolute Dissent’ and ‘Pylon.’
Time may have moved on, but Geordie and Youth continue to nail it every night. They don’t move much, although I think Geordie did turn around once whilst Youth occasionally punches the air. Otherwise, they are content with ensuring that they pump out the riffs and maintain the heaviness which attracts so many from across the musical fan world to their shows. Ultimately, it’s Jaz that is both mouthpiece and spokesman for the band and he’s an eloquent and captivating frontman.
Concluding the evening with three of their most appropriate songs, ‘Requiem’ the darkness of ‘I Am the Virus’ and ‘Pandemonium’, Killing Joke demonstrated once more that they remain a relevant and important band. See them if you can.
All photo credits: Paul Hutchings