Monday, 9 November 2009

756 KILLING JOKE, Treponem Pal, plus support, London Kentish Town Forum, Friday 3 October 2008

Following my recent Joke resurrection, I'd have been interested about any future gig by the hosts of my first ever gig, back in June 1981. But when I heard that they were showcasing their first 2 albums on one night, his became an absolute must! So Rich and I booked tix and days off, so we could be totally prepared for the inevitable aural assault from this unique, savage and primal punk noise band, whom one of their own members described as sounding, "like the earth vomiting"!

Left at 4.15 and parked up by the venue just after 7, in time for Rich to get chips before we hit the venue for drinkies. Found a superb viewing spot behind the mixing desk (I'd deduced - correctly - that the floor would be 100% manic mosh, and my dodgy knee should probably give that a miss) and stayed there all night!

The problem with being true musical innovators is that many will subsequently take your sonic template then right royally screw it up. Thus it was with the 2 joke-influenced supports - one was shouty post-EMO hardcore, with a vocalist who believed "performance" meant poncing about and taking your shirt off, and the second were a clumsy proto nu-metal mess who frankly sounded like a walrus taking a dump. At least we enjoyed spotting the misquoted lyric during band 2 - my faves included, "I'm the flake machine," and, "In the planet of gas, here I am with a post up my ass"! Rich and I thought that if he'd enacted the latter, the entertainment value would rise a thousand-fold! Actually, however, the most entertaining thing was that Rich appeared to be standing next to Tony Stark (as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in the recent "Iron Man" movie), so much so that I wanted to ask him to say, "I prefer the weapon you only have to fire... ONCE!" but I was afraid he'd zap me with a repulsor ray or something...!

Tomfoolery over, on to the serious business. The place by now was heaving and rapturously chanting in anticipation of the Joke's arrival, which came at 9.30 to a gothic Wagnerian soundtrack - guitarist Geordie and drummer Paul; white-clad and oddly visored bassist Youth (rocking his Orb look rather than his Joke roots), then finally the unhinged presence of frontman Jaz Coleman, boiler suited and, with joker make-up smeared across his demonic features, yet considerably trimmer even than a couple of years ago. The original Killing Joke line-up, back together for the first time since, ooh, God knows when...

And straight into the hypnotic synth pulse of "Requiem", a strident anthemic opener to ignite the floor-wide mosh, which then went even wilder for the metronomic military march of "Wardance". A relentless pace immediately established - and maintained!

The first 2 Killing Joke albums sounded like nothing else around at the time, veering between guitar-overladen anthemic yet brutal punk attacks, synth workouts with tribal beat overloads, and sinister drawn-out metronomic symphonies. So we got the lot tonight, punctuated by Jaz' lunatic exhortations that 9/11 was, "an inside job," and railings against, "the system," oddly enough still relevant now as back in the Thatcherite late-70s. "Complications" was an amazing mosh-fueller, but that was even topped by an unexpected "Eighties", filling the gap between the primal first album and the more coherent, beats-driven second "What's This For?". "Tension", a rocking beat-down stomper, was great, and "Unspeakable" creepy and sinewy, but the epic single "Follow The Leaders" sounded as harsh, raw and eerily catchy as ever.

Rip-roaring rocker "The Wait", delayed from the first album run-through to the set-end, and a titanic "Pssyche" rounded off a relentless set, before a totally unexpected and very fitting "Love Like Blood", which followed a very well observed minute's silence for early Joke member, the late Paul Raven. The funk stomp of "Change" and a brilliant "Are You Receiving?" finished a magnificent, brutally savage yet euphoric 1 1/2 hours. We got lost around St. John's Wood on the way home and didn't get back till 1.30, but who cares? This was one of the greats.

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