To celebrate 40 years of their first two studio albums, Killing Joke hosted a one-night-only sold out anniversary show – preceded by some regional warmup dates – in which they performed the tracklists in full with their longstanding original lineup of Jaz Coleman (vocals), Geordie Walker (guitar), Martin ‘Youth’ Glover (bass) and Paul Ferguson (drums), with the addition of Roi Robertson (keyboards).

The band played in tracklist order from 1980’s ‘Killing Joke’ and then 1981’s ‘What’s THIS For!’ respectively, beginning on the monastic chant and electronic hops of second single, ‘Requiem’. However, frontman Jaz Coleman animatedly greeting the ‘Killing Joke’ family while foreboding that, “We are close now, very close to World War”, then profusely coughing at the start of the next song as on the recorded version, properly signalled the start of the show, with frightening ‘Wardance’ visuals playing overheard with whistling white noise. The metal bassline and guitar duet of Youth and Geordie layered over keyboard teardrops and tribal drumbeats in ‘Tomorrow’s World’ followed, while Coleman staggered about between vocalisations.

Then came the B-side with the clattering thunder of ‘The Wait’ and the sample introduction of ‘S.O.36’; one of the best performed tracks of the night it featured Geordie’s dizzying, soft guitar circulations alternating with frenzied noise, showing the band’s traditional post-punk foundation. They moved immediately to their second album with opening song, ‘The Fall Of Because, and then played ‘Tension’, with Ferguson’s drumming and Robertson’s taser sound effects. After the glistening guitar chords and synth noise of ‘Butcher’, Killing Joke switched to the B-side, performing their third single, the underwhelming ‘Follow The Leaders’, with Ferguson’s drum cascades, which was overtaken by the band’s yells of “This is madness!” in the following track, ‘Madness’.

Youth introduced the encore by tributing the lineup, which still being together after so long – as Coleman remarked, “We were teenagers when we wrote this” – seemed more poignant. Killing Joke performed their debut B-side, the punk driven ‘Are You Receiving?’, from their 1979 ‘Turn To Red’ EP, and then its eponymous A-side ‘Turn To Red’, ending the show on ‘Pssyche’ from their first commercially distributed live compilation, 1982’s ‘Ha’.

12/03/23: Killing Joke @ Royal Albert Hall, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.