Halfway through Killing Joke’s Bodega gig, the final set of what was effectively a “Greatest Hits/Singles” album promo jaunt, amid a whirlwind of pulverising noise, I fast came to the conclusion that I really knew only a small fraction of the band’s extensive studio discography. And what I did know, was pretty much confined to the first decade of the band’s 35-year career. Which, when you think about it, hardly constitutes knowing a band “intimately”.
But Killing Joke’s earliest work always had greater prominence in my mind’s eye, only because it meant so much to me at the time. Truth is, I’ve lost touch with the band over the past couple of decades, a point that was literally hammered home to me (in jackhammer fashion) at Friday night’s not quite sold out gig.
Not that any of it mattered. This was the legendary Killing Joke. In Wellington for the first time, and they were here to celebrate the old stuff anyway.
I got to see all of my favourites – a magnificent ‘Requiem’ to open, ‘Wardance’ three tracks into the set, a much earlier than anticipated rendition of ‘Love Like Blood’ (which I’d picked as a default encore option), ‘Eighties’, and ‘The Wait’. All there and accounted for. There were others I recognised but was perhaps a bit too sozzled to recall here … things got a little “vague” as the night wore on (ahem).
What I do know is that it was very loud, there were none of the sound problems I’d associated with Bodega in the past, and despite it being crowded, hot, and sticky, none of the issues that had apparently tainted Killing Joke’s Auckland show the previous night.
Vocalist, founder, and main man Jaz Coleman, was truly a sight to behold. With flowing jet black locks, deep set crazy eyes, and a truly impressive crow-like beak, he really is the ultimate frontman. With such an imposing stage presence his only focus was to give the crowd exactly what they wanted, what they expected. He knows the game and plays the role perfectly.
Flanked by a perpetually bored looking guitarist Geordie to his right, and bassist (and uber producer) Youth – who was clearly loving it – to his left, Coleman cuts quite the Rock God profile. His on stage dramatics and tendency to take the piss out of himself, somehow defy a 53-year-old body, and delight the whippersnappers in the front row(s) – or the dysfunctional Bodega equivalent of a “mosh” – in equal measures.
In the end we got a solid 90-minute set, of which 30-odd minutes was an encore … from noisy early punk, to gothic post-punk, with large segments of layered industrial grind … if this proves to be something of a sign-off tour for Killing Joke, they’ve left me with a gig to savour, and one that will now perhaps become my defining memory of the band.
If I didn’t really know Killing Joke to begin with, I certainly left the venue feeling rather more enlightened, and satisfied that the gig qualifies as quite probably the best $70 I’ve spent all year.