Killing Joke
Manchester Academy 2
March 31 2011
Great Killing Joke photos from Sakura…

With thick black eye make-up dripping down his sweat-soaked face, Jaz Coleman is addressing the audience on the impending end of the world. “What’s the point in going to university?” he mulls. “We’ve got, what, eighteen months? Of course,” he adds drolly, “I’ve been wrong before.”
The first time Killing Joke split up, legend has it, fear of imminent Armageddon sent half the band fleeing to Iceland in the spring of 1982. In a thirty-year career of enormous highs, occasional lows but rarely a dull moment, they have repeatedly courted, challenged, embraced or laughed in the face of global catastrophe. It’s one of the things that has lent that rare demented power to the quartet’s output. Live, they have the ability to charge a room with a unique energy and invoke strange elemental powers. Tonight, it has to be said, is not quite one of those nights.
The first stumble occurs right at the start as three quarters of the band take the stage and there then follows what seems at first to be a stretching of dramatic tension. This ends when white suited bassist Youth ambles up to the microphone and enquires “Where’s Jaz?” An unruffled Coleman eventually appears and Big Paul Ferguson triggers the awesome opening drum avalanche of Unspeakable. Geordie’s subsequent guitar ought to take the top of our collective heads off, but instead the familiar sheets of noise are lacking a few lethal decibels, while the bass flounders as though wrapped in some sort of sonic mattress. The sound issues never resolve themselves, robbing the evening of a vital facet of its power. Coleman of course doesn’t falter, a mad-eyed screamer caught up in his own apocalyptic celebrations. Geordie in particular though seems irritated, strolling over to his amps to cock a concerned ear, kicking spitefully at a wayward guitar pedal, and even reprimanding a roadie when his water bottle is found to be empty. Still, it can hardly be claimed that Killing Joke have drawn too much energy from contentment, and complacency is clearly not an issue here.
The set-list is difficult to fault, drawing richly from the first two albums and last year’s strong comeback offering Absolute Dissent (although quite what they have against 1982’s superb Revelations, entirely absent here, is difficult to assess ”“ perhaps it reminds the individuals too uncomfortably of a time when even their capacity for pushing the edges of sanity were stretched).
Whatever the reasons, the night never truly catches fire. The band too often seem distracted, the audience consequently don’t respond with full blood, the cocktail never quite mixes. A decent mosh-pit kicks off for the closing double header of The Wait and Pssyche, but it’s not enough to elevate the entire evening.
This original line-up possess a special energy, a strange voodoo which refuses to be conjured on tap. I saw them two years ago at Blackpool Winter Gardens and it seemed that night as though they’d charged the air itself with some vibrant, crackling force, like an invisible dragon was writhing above our heads along with the music. Such brilliance can’t be taken for granted and tonight the band fall a little short of their own lofty standards, but that’s no disgrace. They have been merely good, but the potential for magnificence remains, and for a band into their fourth decade that’s a special achievement.
Rob Haynes
 Killing Joke Manchester Academy 2 live review

Photos by Sakura

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  1. Oh well… I saw K.J. in Nottingham the night before this & they were ON FIRE. Hadn’t seen them since 1987 (!) & was expecting the worst tbh, but they were savage & unrelenting throughout (sound problems for the first couple of songs, though I think that might’ve been the venue’s fault). AWESOME, sporadically. I agree though, it’s strange that they didn’t touch on the mighty Revelations – it would’ve been great to hear “The Pandys Are Coming”, eh?

    Something I noticed: the crowd at this show wasn’t the usual “pissed pogoing old men trying to relive their glory days”. Many of them seemed familiar with K.J’s recent material & had obviously kept up with their releases long after some of us (yes, me) lost interest. Respect due, etc.

  2. An excellent review. Killing Joke are peerless. Very few bands are capable of inducing awe – Killing Joke seem to do it effortlessly. I do wonder why such an original, creative, professional and deeply inspiring band does not seem to appeal a younger audience. Killing Joke are like a fine wine – actually improving with age. I’m counting down the days until I can be under the same roof as them once again.

  3. I just saw them in London earlier this evening & I too was surprised at no ‘Revelations’ material. Nothing from Fire Dances or Brighter than a Thousand Suns either. With a 30 year back-catalogue to pick from its not surprising some stuff will get left out.
    Weren’t any technical glitches tonight, but the audience took time to warm up – a little taken aback by Unspeakable and didn’t really get going until Change & Wardance.
    That aside they were quite stunning at times particularly Requiem, Primitive and The Great Cull.
    You can see the alchemy the original line-up have the great testimony to this the 1980 album, which is played in full spread across the set.
    Killing Joke were Killing Joke, and thats what we want of them.

  4. Was at this gig, and although thought they were great, did think the sound system was rubbish. I saw them here in 2006, but it was on a different stage, and the sound was ace…and the lighting better too if I want to nit pick! Last time my head was buzzing through the next day, but sadly not this time LOL Was awesome to see Big Paul on drums as have never seen him play before, or the original line up for that matter. Brilliant gig, and love the academy for being all ages as can bring my daughter who loves them too. Sadly few venues that it’s possible. Great show. Wish they would mix up the music more. But my theory is they play what’s easiest to play live!

  5. I was at the Academy gig and this is a fair review – Killing Joke are awesome but tonight was jsut good – though I did catch some great ‘gurning’ moments from Jaz that reminded me of their past. I hope they keep going from strength to strength and look forward to catching up with them again soon. Thought the venue selection was poor, Apollo would have been better IMO.

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