As the Killing Joke tour nears its end and we prepare for the official LTW live review from the London show at the Roundhouse on Nov 17th John Robb (from the UK post punk band Membranes) returns from their stunning Manchester gig to preview the upcoming tour climax and pinpoint ten reasons why the current live Killing Joke show could be the best live band in the world right now!

photo by Phil Newall

Also Watch This! John Robb’s one hour interview with Youth here!

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On nights like this Killing Joke are the greatest rock band in the world – that’s if they are to be trapped by the word rock. Sure enough there is the power of the precision of rock and its bombastic volume but there is also the deep undertow of dub, the relentless groove of funk, the brooding dynamics of sweeping classical and the dark magus of their very own voodoo which fills the room. 

Much has been said about Killing Joke on this tour and much of it is true. 

This truly is a band at they very top of their game. 

There is an avalanche of mesmerising power about their music that captures all their phases from the dirty disco and dub of their initial releases to the intense end of times sermons of the current trilogy of apocalypse now albums that seriously fuck your head in the best possible ways. 

This is a unique band at the top of their game.

There are a clutch of shows left on this tour.

You must go.

Ten reasons why Killing Joke are at the top of the game right now!

1. Death Disco

Killing Joke were always about the groove. No matter how deep the noise and intensity got you could always dance to it. They always had that heavy unrelenting power but with an undertow you could move to. The heaviest disco band in the world? The true masters of punk funk? 

The enormous groove of songs like Wardance is timeless, that primal groove from Geordie’s guitar counterpointed by the funk bass and those drums made them the greatest death disco band ever. 

2. The intensity of Killing Joke is legendary

Even at the back of the hall you can see the whites of Jaz Colemans eyes. This is no showbiz shaman throwing shapes – this is the real deal. An imperious, wild intensity full of the filth and disgust of intelligence trapped Ina dumbed down world. Coleman’s body shivers as he does his medicine man shuffle across the stage. It’s hypnotic stuff and you can feel the power of this ghost dance and the band’s total belief.

3. Jazz Hands

Jaz Coleman’s hands look enormous as they carve arcs out of the gig murk. They dominate the stage like huge goalies gloves lining up for a penalty. They look enormous and they seem to hold all the huge music in their palms. They are, of course, conductors hands and the surf on the sound of the band as the hypnotise the faithful – fleshy digits that are the conduit for the band to the audience and back again.

4. The dark magus

There have been a few Killing Joke line ups – many of them have been great in their own right of course – who can deny the monster bass of the late and great Raven but there is something chemical about these four, that when they get on stage together their disparate personalities gel into a mighty force. That’s not just compared to their other line ups but to any other band. Few can capture this odd and captivating atmosphere like Killing Joke. This is a unique band and that chemical aura that sounds them helps to define such mystical musical words like ‘chemical’.

5. The Gathering

Jaz Coleman calls gigs ‘gatherings’ and the fierce spirit in the room tonight is testament to the unique community that follows the band. Killing Joke are like a few other bands from that period like, maybe the Stranglers, that demand this kind of devotion – these micro worlds are more like strange religious orders with dark visions than mere pop groups. People will wait years for their dose of the dark and tonight are rewarded with one of the greatest Killing Joke shows ever.

6. Paul Ferguson

It’s an astonishing display of drums tonight from the quiet man of Killing Joke. Of course there was power and we expect the power. It may be an unreasonable expectation of course from a man who is nearly 60 and perhaps we should care for his joints and skeletal frame as he pounds away for 90 minutes and we do take that for granted.The power is not all there is though – there is an amazing finesse to what he does, counter rhythms, off kilter rhythms, tribal rhythms,the perfect groove of funk in a rhythm overload that combines snappy hi hat action, those thermal toms and the relentless kick drum. It’s a drumming masterclass.

7. Youth

With a huge pile of non matching amps piled up behind him, Youth is channeling the spirit of Lee Scratch Perry, War and Lemmy into his bass. It’s a sonic rumble in the bottom end jungle as he faces sideways across the stage you can feel his joy as he locks into the eternal dark groove that is the heart of Killing Joke. Youth brought the disco to the band from his pre punk teenage years and the art of party into the dark space of the ensemble. This is crucial. Killing Joke were always a band that you could dance to. The apocalyptic sermons needed the blast furnace groove and Youth has always been there to make sure that part of the equation was provided. His unique stage presence and colourful attire (which even toned down tonight still seems to glow) also stands out a mile in a room full of black – a dayglo feel good character who also embraces the heavyweight agenda of the band geo politically,culturally and magic wise glowing in a monochromatic apocalypse movie. 

8. Jaz

For many years Jaz was treated by the press as some kind of madman shooting at the passerby about the end of times and the impending apocalypse . Unfortunately for the planet it turned out he was the only sane person in the building and was right all the time. Switching from the Jaz-growl to his croon, the white face painted Coleman is in great voice on this tour locking into the ensemble as another component in what is very much a band. His role remains the communicator, the conductor and the boiler suited shaman bringing the fierce force of the beyond into the narrow world of music.

9. Geordie

Stoic and impenetrable the guitar player stands there deceptively still as his hands wreak carnage with those Gibson ES Series guitars that switch from the distinctive sustain drones, the shards of corrugated riffs and the dark arpeggios. It’s a unique and powerful sound. Much copied but never equalled. Especially in post grunge American rock where is became the staple. The sound is impenetrable you can’t dissect it into any one constituent part. Its like scraping rust from huge sheets of metal like the gigantic pieces created by the sculptor Richard Serrawhose work is the closest comparison I can think of or it sounds like the end of times but it’s never noise whilst it delivers a whole host of chiming melodies in its melodic carnage with a deft lightness of touch as well as so many clever rhythms .

10. Time to hit the road more…

This world tour has been blowing minds. 

We have all been following it on facebook waiting for it to snake its way towards us. It’s time for Killing Joke to take themselves as seriously as their fans do and tour a bit more often. Of course absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that but we need this mercurial dose of dark alchemy more than every few years. We appreciate they do have day jobs – Youth has to keep his production line of million selling productions goings, Paul has his heavy duty wrought iron jewellery to make and Jaz wanders the world creating orchestral pieces whilst Geordie is locked in his Prague flat creating those corrosive riffs but these dark and dangerous times need the perfect soundtrack and we demand an annual dose of this magik. 

That’s all.


Remaining tour dates  – Tickets

9 Nov  – Birmingham

10 Nov – Bristol

 11 Nov – Southampton

 13 Nov – Cambridge

14 Nov – Norwich

16 Nov – Oxford

17 Nov –  London Roundhouse

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I came out of that gig a ruined man (no spring chicken anymore), knees and back hurt, voice just a croak but a feeling of total happiness. A great performance by a great band….I hope it happens again asap.

  2. John, I have to agree, they were brilliant. I haven’t, sadly, seen them for years and they are one of my favourite bands. They are a class above.

  3. John as always your words convay, so eloquently, every Killing Joke follows inner feelings and thoughts.
    What you said about them and Stranglers followers is so right, I go to gigs on me own most of the time and feel so safe and part of something so special. Stranglers are my heart and soul… Killing Joke live are phenomenal.
    Thanks John

  4. I have seen KJ 19 times in the US dating back to 1989 and with four different drummers. BPF truly was the missing piece. I didn’t see them on this tour because frikkin’ Riot Fest, but multiple times on post-reunion tours and I cannot fathom his stamina, energy and leadership.

  5. Great piece John. Very smart people and great musicians. Killing Joke created the blueprint for so many other genres by fusing disco, dub and punk, which was more than evident on Wednesday evening. The Apocalyptic Fab Four if you like…………and Youth, I wish I was that cool ;)

  6. Went to the Newcastle gig with my young son and we were both blown away. A band like no other still playing at the top of their game. They should be playing Glastonbury, download, and to much bigger audiences. There are a lot more people out there to be gathered. Keep it going Killing Joke the world needs you.

  7. An excellent summary of what I’ve witnessed on this tour. Killing Joke are at their very best, a band that still has something to say and will say it no matter what.

    There’s no one better on the world stage than Killing Joke right now and as Jaz said in Manchester, ”This band is staying together and will continue on if he has anything to do with it.’

    Long may they reign.

  8. I’ve loved Killing Joke since 1980. When I first saw this unknown band, actually going to see “ The Police “ after witnessing IggyPop and Killing Joke, my live was changed forever. Being a guitarist of over 50 years now, my cover bands of those days would play KJ songs, which blew ppl away even though they didn’t have a clue who we were playing. I remember during a set break the crowd continued to sing “ Complication “ and “ War Dance “ I missed a lot of music over the yrs as to me nobody came close to Killing Joke. My heart broke when they didn’t do Canada on this tour. My only hope I get to see my absolute favorite band for over 35 yrs now. Jazz please do Canada next tour, you shook my hand as the last thing you did before walking off stage in Toronto for the “ Singles “ tour, maybe you noticed my yelling “ Jazz !” and me flashing my giant KJ tat. Please make Canada if you tour again, until then I have every album you’ve made to survive on a nail then. Killing Joke… the very very best, will never be topped. I chuckle at ppl just getting it now. With love of music and Killing Joke…thank you !

  9. Saw them in Leeds…full of a cold, but 90 minutes in the mosh pit cured me!!
    Fine words, Mr Robb, which brilliantly sum up a band I first saw at Preston Polytechnic as a 16 year old…I might have changed in the intervening 30 odd years but the Joke are STILL the Joke.

  10. Je viens juste de les voir à Paris, mon premier concert d’eux date de 1983, ils étaient juste énormes, revu en 2006 je crois à Nantes, c’était fabuleux, mais je dois dire que la tournée 2018, c’est juste incroyable, comme le bon vin qui se bonifie avec le temps… d’accord avec toi, ces gars sont justes géniaux

  11. A perfect description of a perfect band. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Oslo in 2016, and it truly was a ritual. And by looks of the crowd, you can tell that they hit wide – punks, professors and stock brokers shoulder to shoulder.
    The best AND most important band in the world, ever!

  12. Good work fella. A monster band for sure. The Scala gig was a squeeze but an awesome sound in a small space.
    Enjoy if you get the chance to see them.

  13. Great reporting. I feel blessed that not everyone gets Killing Joke. There is so much trite nonsense in the music scene and always has been. I don’t know of any bands that are as committed and earnest as Killing Joke. Their sound lifts your spirit and helps you have faith that there are decent people in this world that are not trying to screw you over for that extra buck.

  14. Saw them in 1979 at the Lyceum, when they played Change the whole place was dancing, right to the back near the bar, never seen that before or since!

  15. Looking forward to the Roundhouse, a selfish wish they could play longer and dig out more and more rarities from the back catalogue….

  16. After all these years KJ still makes good music and have killer live shows. Just saw them in Paris and it was again and still mind blowing.
    Never been really part of the rock star system is maybe the reason behind their amazing on going talent and inspiration .
    Stay strong Killing Joke.

  17. Was lucky enough to see KJ At the rebellion festival in Blackpool in 2014. Living in Japan!(left England in 83) so not much chance of them coming over here soon, mores the pity. Great read!!!!

  18. I had a smile on my face all through that gig.
    You could tell Youth was enjoying it, especially during Psyche and The Wait.
    I just hope there is more still left to come.
    Every time I see them I think this could be the last time, so I revel in the moment.
    They are phenomenal.

  19. Probably a bit too late to comment but it’s taken me this long to recover……….how on earth are KJ not regarded as one of the greatest bands to have ever come out of Britain? Is it that people just don’t get it?I’m totally at a loss. John, your piece was spot on and summed up how I feel perfectly. It will be a shame in years to come that KJ didn’t get the recognition from joe public which would have been fully deserved when they were around. Well fuck joe public, Killing Joke is mine.

  20. saw KJ the last 2 tours in berlin germany – the only thing that could better the show would be KJ hiring their own light person.
    The house light person did not manage to create a fitting atmos to KJ´s music at any of these gatherings.


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