Killing Joke Leeds Beckett University 4th November 2015

Posted by vibrations on 23-11-15

Midway through Killing Joke’s performance a huge bear of a man hurtles into me, all        beard and sweat, grabs my shoulders, fixes my gaze and yells into my face ‘I AM THE VIRUS! I AM THE VIRUS!’ It’s unnerving, a little bit intimidating and not the stuff of my normal Wednesday evening. I glance to the stage at Jaz Coleman’s snarling face full of rage but for a moment I’m not sure where I’d be safest- probably up there with him rather than down here with this lunatic. At this point my assailant breaks into the broadest of grins, slaps me on the back and spins into another group of people booming in a deep Welsh voice ‘Crackin!’ Despite all appearances to the contrary he’s coming from a good place.

Which, it has to be said, is a fair summation of Killing Joke themselves. I’ll admit that before tonight I was a Killing Joke virgin. That said, I thought I knew what to expect – a haranguing from a humourless conspiracy theorist in Alice Cooper make up and a bludgeoning from the stern faced troops in the band. Turns out that’s only half the story. Boiler suited Jaz does indeed resemble a messianic clockwork toy wound up to the point where he might explode and he’s clearly sincere in his unique worldview but his look of elation towards at the audience’s cheers betray someone who realises the absurdity of having predicted the end of the world one too many times. He’s intense certainly but also much more relaxed and at ease with himself as a performer than I’d anticipated. Similarly, the band do provide a heavy, heavy onslaught but I was unprepared for the amount of swing, melody and downright danceability that’s in there. They’re also a far more sociable bunch than I’d thought, bassist Youth in particular a friendly onstage presence who observes that the band have very happy memories of the hall we’re in of which tonight is one.

And, if memories are made of ageing punks and goths slamming into each other with wild abandon as if families and mortgages had never happened, then this will be one to savour. Down at the front it’s carnage but seriously, the babysitters of Leeds must be raking it in this evening. To begin with I was thinking the crowd were a little tame but when they drop ‘Eighties’ early in the set the place erupts. I hope none of this implies that it was a nostalgic rehash of past glories- the material from the superb new album ‘Pylon’ is greeted with as much enthusiasm as any searing classic with some of the more vocal members of the audience already bellowing every word.

Which brings me back to my friend from earlier. Still sweaty and scary but clearly having the time of his life, he bellows for an encore, pleading, “GET BACK ON – I’VE GOT WORK IN THE MORNING! I’VE GOT TO BE UP AT FIVE!”

“Who the fuck employs you?” asks a woman behind him not unreasonably – she’s evidently tired of being trampled on and battered.

“I MAKE AMBULANCE BEDS,’ he roars. ‘WHEN YOU DIE, YOU’LL BE ON ONE OF THEM!” And then he lurches back to the front cackling madly to himself.

Jaz, Youth, Geordie and Big Paul return to the stage and deliver a belter of an encore. ‘Love Like Blood’ is particularly is glorious and sends shivers down the spine. They end with ‘Pandemonium’ which just about describes the whole evening. Now I need to buy everything they’ve ever done.

Alan Stewart

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