Live Review: Killing Joke @ The Academy, Dublin 30 Oct 2016

New Album Pylon out now via Universal.

Jaz Coleman’s incredible, weird energy is unparalleled. Having seen Killing Joke play The Button Factory 2010, I knew this gig was unmissable. There was a shared this sensation of being impaled on Jaz’s gaze. I was reminded of Beckett referring to a pair of eyes as ‘clenched’. I would imagine that Beckett probably wrote this as an implausible image but, Jaz has seriously clenched, and clenching, peepers. Second time, I didn’t quite feel as though I’d been nailed to the nearest wall by Jaz’s gaze but nonetheless I believe this was an even better show.


The stage was set with two altar candles and some incense. Possibly nag champa; a favourite of both Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead. Incidentally when I saw Bob Dylan play in The 02 the smell of nag champa was most certainly the best thing about the entire mutually contemptuous experience. But in this case, a ceremonial atmosphere was created and sustained as they opened their set with the winningly gothic ‘The Hum’. In a surprising but well considered move, their better-known, legendary single ‘Love Like Blood’, followed as their second song. It was played tightly yet enriched with change. Their keyboard player, Reza Udhin, is a welcome addition and accounts for such embellishments of their sound.


This time, one aspect I was very conscious of from the beginning of the performance was that Jaz truly knows how to make great use of stillness as a performer; you will not take your eyes off him because you just know he’s about to do something that will scare the crap out of you. Some sharp and devastating gesture you might miss in the blink of an eye, like how he pointed smitefully at bass player Martin Glover, a gesture which said “YOU”. If he did that to me, I swear I would turn into a pillar of piss. But Glover didn’t. In fact Jaz did this a few times with his band members and it made for very tight timing of certain sounds with movements, which is theatrical in a literal way. He also exercised control over the audience, as with a wave of his hand he could incite and animate the crowd as though through an unseen electrical charge.

Sincere or acerbic?

Jaz and Killing Joke are also known for his views on such geopolitical topics as chemtrails, water fluoridation, war. All kinds of happy stuff. He mentioned chemtrails and said, somewhat vaguely, that he ‘enjoyed’ Brexit. I couldn’t tell you what he meant by that. (As far as I can recall, the last time I saw Killing Joke play Jaz was expressing anti-EU sentiments). Neither did I know how to take his introduction to “Eighties” a song which has a riff that, if you haven’t heard it before, you will most likely recognize from being lifted for Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’. (Captain Sensible also used the riff, but this went largely unnoticed). As it was Halloween weekend, Jaz said “It is a night to honour the dead”, and paused ominously. “This one’s for Kurt”. I didn’t know if that was sincere or acerbic at first but I have decided that it was sincere. ‘Psyche’ from their 1982 album Ha was a particular favourite for me. By that stage the audience were well entranced ; Jaz sold us what he sussed, yes! And their encore was absolutely on fire, the selection of songs a powerful representation of what Killing Joke are about; the cynical poetry of ‘Beautiful Dead’, and the heavy politics of ‘Wardance’ and ‘Pandemonium’, their sound marrying the best qualities of industrial, post-punk and metal.


He fits in so much of his personal views and fears between songs and does so in a way that doesn’t detract from his mystique at all. In fact, it adds to it. Especially when he tells the audience that he is ANGRY, so VERY ANGRY. Jaz’s persona is so scary because he takes in upon himself to expose evil where he sees it, and does so unflinchingly. There is a certain uncompromising, anti-dystopian idealism to their message which has been preserved and kept at the forefront of their work but the cathartic release offered by Killing Joke’s geopolitical message is ultimately uplifting and affirming;

“I sincerely believe Killing Joke have incarnated together to show how to ‘process’ the evils of the modern world through art, brotherhood, and love. It is our mission.” Jaz Coleman (21stcenturywire)

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