Killing Joke at The Roundhouse - Review

Killing Joke at The Roundhouse, London, 6th November 2015

Killing Joke - by Terry Tyldesley

Killing Joke - The Roundhouse, London

I cannot remember exactly the first time I saw Killing Joke but my body-memory never forgot.
I cannot recall where exactly the gig was, but it was local, in London. We were still school kids bosom fed on teenpunk exploits only a few years before.

Thatcher was in full power, Reagan hadn’t even made the presidency. Yet unemployment, the dismantling of the state to corporate control, disaffected youth and fear of the Cold War were in evidence.

I first found out about the band via a black/red button badge sported on a blazer lapel by one of the cooler kids and within a week we had squeezed into some dark venue (Music Machine, Clarendon?) to witness the band that hailed from Notting Hill. They were practically local, which made them ours.

The sound was harsh loud and the angry freak keyboardist was shouting whilst hammering the keys. I didn’t know you could shout that mentally at an audience, fist clenching, alien, primal, blistering, non-conformist, dark brooding and connecting deeply with my teen self.
The bassist had a low slung turquoise Rickenbacker, which I always admired as a true instrument, which truly thundered, whilst a buzz saw guitar shredded a full circuit of chords.

The gig was carnal and relevant. This band meant something in fact they really fucking meant it. The imagery, anti-war threatening, anti-religion, dark and simple Killing Joke drop banners flanked the drummer, simple, subtle.

Killing Joke - by Terry Tyldesley

I left that venue with DNA adjusted, and not because of the blue smoke. It was the first time I suffered tinnitus for a day or so and I craved that essence of communal witness again.
I was also angry. Something ignited.

I would see them many times over the years, these early gigs engendering a unique camaraderie within band and followers, built from squat culture, non-conformism, and a well-educated sardony. Killing Joke gigs were an infectious release and one that seeded deeper thought and investigation into this audactic world of alienation and venom. It wasn’t metal though, it was its own thing. It had west London dub sprinkled with a proto-(techno)logical torment.

Fast forward 35 years. 14 LPs later.

Pre gig pub rammed with the faithful gatherers getting an early listen to the new LP.
Following the hum. Immediately those early teen-feelings began surfacing.

The venue filled quickly with a good welcoming diversity of the unorthodox invisible spectra of middle aged urban society. I was impressed that certain punters had travelled quite far for this gig, some chaps from Nottingham were mulling over getting the train back from St Pancras post-gig. Whilst some had ventured from France. Fair play, worth the trek.

Inside, oddly perched by a small table in the upper bar, clutching a wooden box of special paints, Youth was happily excreting pastel onto small canvasses for quick sale. Still with that cheeky worldly grin, with remnants of spikey grey fronds sprouting from under his peaked visor. Clearly at peace with himself and happy to mingle and chat with his aged sistren and brethren. The calm before the storm.

Jah Wobble - by Terry Tyldesley

I should say something about the main support Jah Wobble, who is actually a very funny entertainer peddling a funky music lesson in the ways of bass, but I suspected most of the throng, though respectful, were more interested in a harsher spiritual lesson. And we were not disappointed.

Killing Joke’s last date of their tour was by many means quite special.

This was the original set up of the band, post Raven, post mid-life disappearance it felt, back to the root core. The original feel was there and this gig was a return to early form in most respects. The band members as close friends reunited, the old basic KJ drop banners had returned and the lighting just as stark dramatic but this time more colourful.

This felt more stripped down than the gig three years ago at the same venue and the better for it.
In fact given their 38 years together, it was clear they still had a lot to say given this period of history is probably more fragile than when they first started gigging in that the Cold War/Thatcher period.

The Wait commenced proceedings and it is fair to note that this was the track most pledged by their hardcore old skool fans. For in these democratic days fans can choose what they want the band to play. Kinda nu-school, but when you have a long track record most of the tunes will get an airing I thought.

Killing Joke - by Terry Tyldesley

Actually we were well treated to the standards. Requiem, Wardance, Eighties which all still sound relevant and visceral, and though Jaz no longer hangs behind the keyboards (filled by Reza), his dramatic upstage presence is as shamanic than ever.

Skipping courtly jester-like one moment, grasping a fixed nuance, punctuating a vocal point the next, whilst conducting the oh-so-packed gathering. His mic hand high to his head during most of the set – reminded me of native Indians for some reason. Sporting a dense Nehru long coat and dripping warpaint as ever, it is strange to think this academic front man works at the UN? There is hope for us all.

The new LP Pylon, got a fair airing, smattered amongst the long list of classics with I am the Virus clearly the new standout singalong. Nothing from Revelations nor Firedances, but I wasn’t too upset about not hearing anything from this period of their work.

Change seemed more hoppy and Eighties more boppy. If a band responds to the crowd’s energy, then clearly Killing Joke had found a means to unlock our deep source of ultra vitality and charge their industry.

Killing Joke - by Terry Tyldesley

Each track was preceded by a thoughtful twisted Jaz-joke reflection.

We were reminded, pre-Exorcism, about our lack of empathy and that 9/11 was a fallacy. Jaz intoned that we should be ashamed of ourselves over the sad plight of washed-up children via the refugee crisis, even though we went into the Middle East.

How can we complain now when we did nothing then? We were being alerted to our lack of compassion and empathy. Our terrible cowardice.

All this a week before 11/13 Paris. In post-rational retrospect this was a warning at the cusp of the darkness that was really descending on us all globally.

Did they know this – surely not? Had these four meta physically conjured with the zeitgeist perfectly within this circular temple. What geomantic power was being tapped. It wasn’t a new or full moon was it? (Turns out it was neither).

The newer LP tracks, Dawn Of the Hive, Panopticon, Into the Unknown filled the latter gig moments with the dark metal Gods breezing over the sweatpit. Psyche closed the set once again. A more intense, perhaps rushed drill and notable for Paul’s lyrics disappearing into the mix-melee.

Killing Joke - by Terry Tyldesley

Turn to Red welcomed the encore and was almost playful compared to the barrage before.
Madness followed, a reminder that we should shun nuclear weapons even whilst being rendered stupid by the chem-spraying that goes on above our heads.

Love like Blood dedicated to lost friends and Raven, whilst Youth struggled with a ton of feedback through his bass pedals.

The set ended with thanks from Jaz to his Lords Walker, Ferguson and Youth before a rousing Pandemonium ending in an on–stage feedback drenched group hug. This would be great at a no-bounds festival I thought. Dusk to beyond midnight.

But it wasn’t entertainment per se, it was an educational re-boot.

Clearly this was a special homecoming, with punk glitterati in attendance, and the band embracing friends and family backstage. This meant a lot for us, and to the band before their upcoming gigs in the US.

I really think Killing Joke are one of our greatest bands, given their continual independence, their intelligence and staunch crusade that we need to be rid of the grey fools that have conned us into our somnambulisms over the years.

We’ve all been conned and that’s the endearing joke - but why isn’t anybody gathering for the righteous causes? And that made me wonder if the kids are tuning onto this before it’s too late.

Killing Joke - by Terry Tyldesley

Decades ago, the next day would be spent legging it to Kensington Market to buy a taped bootleg of the gig, but that’s all gone now. Thankfully this was not the mega selfie smartphone waving gig, though the full gig is available on FB and it’s worth the watch and reflect on the underlying messages left within the running order.

This was old skool and we knew it. History repeating itself - but heavier – much heavier.
We need to switch on again.

My ears were humming my nervous system at high pitch. My body buzzed and ached in a good way. I can’t recall the journey home though I retired, re-programmed and reignited.

Oh now I remember what Killing Joke was all about and I was thankful.


  1. The Wait
  2. Autonomous Zone
  3. The Fall of Because
  4. Eighties
  5. The Beautiful Dead
  6. I Am the Virus
  7. Exorcism
  8. Change
  9. Money is Not Our God
  10. Requiem
  11. Dawn Of the Hive
  12. Panopticon
  13. Wardance
  14. Into the Unknown
  15. Asteroid
  16. Psyche

17. Turn To Red
18. Madness
19. Love Like Blood
20. Pandemonium