Thursday, 10 December 2009

700 KILLING JOKE, Plus Support, Oxford Zodiac, Tuesday 2 May 2006

Yup, that does read Killing Joke! The hosts of the first ever gig I went to, back in 1981 when I was a skinny barely 16 year old punk rocker. Since then the Joke and I have gone slightly separate ways, but my recent revisiting of my rock roots (in the absence of anything current to excite me) has coincided with the Joke's acknowledgement as a major influence on the current rock landscape. So, a Joke gig? Yeah, why not?

With the Big Man in Cornwall and Rachel not too keen, I talked my brother into coming along. So I wrested him from his new "500 pound gulley cat" and we headed off to Oxford, hitting the venue just after 8 and joining the old punks and nu-metal Slipknot fans at the bar. I didn't remember the support 3-piece's name, and certainly don't remember their shouty nu-metal mess. Thankfully their set was short!

The Joke, however, kept us waiting a further 3/4 hour before vocalist Jaz Coleman took the stage, boiler suited and with red and black face paint, looking like a cross between Ric Flair after a cage match, and a horror film evil clown. Following a preamble about not having played in Oxford for 20+ years due to its proximity to hated hometown Cheltenham, they tore into jagged, regimented opener "Communion". Then, an incredible "Wardance", and we were away.

Late 70's, Killing Joke were a band out of time, the ferocity of the guitar attack extreme even for punk, and their occasional 8 or 9 minute metronomic forays into pseudo-electronica definitely out of step with the prevalent 3 minute 3-chord wonders of the time. However nowadays they make more sense, as proto-metal, post (pre?) grunge anthems. Taking you back, and forward at the same time, as my brother commented... Jaz was a mesmerising presence throughout; late 40's he may be, but he howled his vocals with frightening intensity, body twitching and seething, eyes wild and staring in a contorted mask of hate. Then between songs, he joked about nearly crashing the van the other night! Barking mad.

Mid-set, based on current CD "Hosannas From The Basement Of Hell", dragged somewhat, as the Joke seemed more to sound like their imitators, with harsh nu-metal. However, oldie "The Wait" changed all that, thrilling, ferocious and intense, and "Psyche" saw me join the moshpit, 14 years old and back at Under 18 Brunel again.

Encores featured another couple of oldies, to round off a 1 1/2 hour+ set veering from the frankly awful to the frankly awesome; a set of extremes, just what you'd expect from this extreme band! Hung around for a few minutes after, and their young drummer sorted out the band to sign my set-list! Result! Left late at 11.30, happy and vindicated. For so long I'd been a little doubtful and even embarrassed about Killing Joke having been my first ever gig. No longer. This mighty beast can still show the current crop how to play intense and powerful rock. The Joke is still on you!

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