Killing Joke Live at Sonisphere 2011

Killing Joke have been around for a while, originally forming in the late 70’s they have been hugely influential across the whole spectrum of punk / rock / metal. Back in the day frontman Jaz Coleman was a hero of mine, there was always something different, something slightly strange about him. This was a band who just didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought of them and they never seemed to compromise and chase the commercial success that they could have enjoyed. If they were to be successful it was to be on their own terms.

It had been a while since I’d seen Killing Joke live. OK, so they had played the main stage at Sonisphere a couple of years back but on that occasion they didn’t impress me at all, and I wrote them off. Another of my musical heroes who’d had their day…

Or so I thought. At the Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig last month I was genuinely taken aback by how good they were, all of the intensity that had been lost on the big outdoor stage was back. I knew then I had to add them to my “must see” list for this years Sonisphere.

After Metallica finished on the big stage the Bohemia tent soon filled up with an odd mixture of KJ fans and young kids looking to extend the party by another hour, and boy were we all in for a treat. After an overly long intro the set opened with Requiem before the band slipped in the one Killing Joke song that everyone knows, Love Like Blood. This really got the, admittedly partisan, crowd going and the momentum was maintained by the awesome This World Hell.

Killing Joke stand astride a number of genres, and the tempo was ratcheted up a notch by Wardance, But see for yourself, it looked a bit like this…..

Next we had the strangely prophetic European Super State before my favourite Killing Joke track, Madness. In the introduction Jaz commented on the whole News International scandal, saying “This has been a good week, the week we woke up to the fact that Mr. Murdoch runs the country, This is Madness”. Nice to see Killing Joke are still a band who never hide their politics far beneath the surface, but at the same time never get all preachy about it.

I’m kind of running out of superlatives to use to describe what was, for me, the set of the weekend. We had Primitive, we had The Great Cull. This was a perfectly balanced running order that showed just what a great selection of tunes Killing Joke have in their back catalogue.

Depthcharge, about British Petroleum and “the rig that blew in the Caribbean” and Asteroid (with some mad sing-along action) maintained the atmosphere before a song better known to most of the newer occupants of the tent for Metallica’s cover version, The Wait. For me this is one track where the original is better.

The set finished up with the same mental intensity that the band had displayed throughout. Pssyche stayed fairly true to it’s punk origins before things were rounded out by Pandemonium.

Unforgettable is a word that is bandied about far too much these days, but I think the memories of this midnight gig will stay with me for a long time. After the show I thought that this performance would take some beating. And, you know, for all the great music that followed nothing quite managed that.

Memorable, Emotional, Intense….. Brilliant.