Killing Joke

October 3, 2003, Liverpool, UK
October 5, 2003, Leeds, UK
October 6, 2003, Manchester, UK
October 7, 2003, Nottingham, UK

Killing Joke should never be confused with the average rock band, who are quite happy to deliver mundane platitudes and mere entertainment. Before the now defunct Melody Maker dumbed down into an inferior rerun of Smash Hits, one of their hacks gave a Killing Joke gig a slagging. Bellowing keyboard playing composer and lynchpin Jaz Coleman visited their offices and demanded to see the vapid bitcher, and when refused dumped a mound of offal and maggots on the reception desk to much screaming and hilarity. The next day he got a written apology for the bad review.
Ever since they fired up the post-punk ghettos at the very end of the seventies, this has been the band who can keep you running when you hit your lowest ebb. Jaz assures anyone who attends their Fire Dances that there is nothing to touch The Joke in full flight. Having just witnessed four gigs on this tour, I can agree that this is no mere hype. There is nothing to match the precision intensity of Killing Joke. The Everything Alive set on The End of the World tour seems to have been carefully chosen to ritually alter minds, in preparation for battles ahead. The "Wardance" is now dedicated to Tory Bliar and the 2004 US sham-elections, and Jaz is rallying the troops to fight these rapists of Mother Earth. Whilst too many other bands sing crappy happy songs, Killing Joke make music that's "Not music no more."
Elfin Keyboard Walker enters first and fires up the wailing walls of Everything Alive! The rest of the band stride on as the Middle Eastern vortex swirls. Last is Jaz Shaman, now a black lipped sorrow mouth spider-man. It was a nice surprise to hear "Communion" which seemed very appropriate as an opener. Jaz swings a violent cut off arm and the "Requiem" for the cattle for slaughter begins. In Liverpool, Raven sang back up on the line, "The sound of breaking glass, this is your reflection," looking me straight in the eye. The drummer is the mountainous Ted Parsons of Swans and Prong, who Jaz says has some strange habits. Guitarist Geordie is one cool dude, smokin' and turning head from side to side. Bassist Raven glowers in black warpaint, black woolly hat & camo combat shorts, a towel hanging from his back pocket.
The Joke sounded sharper and even more fired up in Leeds and incredibly upped the energy further at the sold out Manchester show. In Leeds Jaz seemed to feed off the wired energy of the crowd. Cop sirens wailed for "Change!" "Everywhere's changing into fucking America!" lamented Jaz, looking for a way out. "Empire Song" and "Asteroid!" boosted later gigs to more massive proportions than the half full Liverpool. The penultimate onslaught in Leeds was a big surprise. Jaz said it might be a bit ropey because they hadn't played it for so long, but "Follow the Leaders" was perfect. Part of the process - same old story?
Whilst most of the best songs from their stormin' album released earlier this year, including the ultimate rock song "Seeing Red", are in the set there are so many older attacks delivered with venom and wit that no Joker should leave without a toothy grin. Tracks like "Tension", "Frenzy" and "Pssyche" are fantastic obliterations of the self, leaving Jokers leaping about in animal ecstasy. Citizens of the un-UK still have a chance to get The Joke in Preston and Sheffield, with a couple of Irish ignitions earlier this week. The "Asteroid!" hits D.C. on the 23rd. Do you want total war?