by Chris Familton
Support acts can sometimes be a lottery. Will they be selected based on a musical similarity to the headliner or a subtle genre variation still with some stylistic connection to them? Will they be a band riding a current radio playlist/bloggers wave or a historical antecedent, forebears of the headliners who are possibly playing at their behest? In the case the band selected to open for Killing Joke were little known Graveyard Rockstars who looked like extras dragged up from a zombie flick with their ghoulish face and body paint that looked like a smeared mix of blood and dirt, regulation rockstar haircuts and black attire. Unfortunately their music didn’t match the diligent creativity of their look, coming off as second rate angst metal that pummeled with turgid verses and soaring melodic choruses. It was standard stuff and though they could all play and sing well it lacked spark and anything to raise it above the plethora of generic emotive hard rock.
Killing Joke on the other hand almost single handedly created industrial metal from the ashes of punk and the creative possibilities of post-punk. Over the decades they’ve evolved from jerky tribal art-pop, through dalliances with synthesizers and into the dark abyss of churning demonic rock music. Through dry ice the band emerged and boldly opened proceedings with one of their best known songs, the epic sweep of Requiem. It sounded gloriously widescreen with Jaz Coleman instantly locked into that piercing thousand yard stare and stance that gave the impression he was physically channeling a fair amount of the electricity that was in the room.
Billed as their singles tour, this meant that there was going to be hefty serving of songs which sat the highest in the ears of the public and from all corners of their thirty plus year career yet they did well to cover many bases and not just the obvious tracks. Early singles like Wardance showcased the primal, tribal side of their sound while the mid set highlight Eighties was a nod to the electronic dance influence on the band as the doom disco song sent waves of taut, shuddering energy through the crowd.
Guitarist Geordie Walker was the magician, weaving and coaxing those trademark chords and riffs from his guitar and seemingly never pausing to change instruments or indulge us in the finer details of tuning. His playing seemed effortless yet wholly visceral and on edge. Bassist Youth seemed, on the surface, to be having the most amount of fun, bouncing on his heels, grinning and digging notes deep out of the rhythms of the music. The conductor of all of this was of course Coleman who switched between ‘centre of the storm’ concentration and power and a shaking, dancing shaman; urging the masses to rise up and give themselves over to the music.
Pandemonium, Madness, Corporate Elect, European Super State and Pssyche were just some highlights among many and though the set started to feel a little more like hard work in the latter part this was still an impressive show of strength from a band who are still creating new music built on the central tenets of their sonic manifesto and delivering it onstage with intensity, energy and belief.