Killing Joke “Honour the Fire” in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom.

The band and the crowd were on fire as the 80’s icons returned to a near sell-out crowd in Glasgow on their full UK tour

The enigma that is Killing Joke is still a tour de force. Their fiery brand of hard-hitting heavily drums influenced, bass-driven post-punk, is set apart by the brilliance of their iconic guitarist Geordie Walker. And then there’s Jaz Coleman, enigmatic, dark yet extremely engaging. If ever there was a band that is more than the sum of its parts, then that is Killing Joke. Each member of the band are master of their craft in their own right, and the four horsemen of their apocalypse bring so much to a live experience. More than just a gig, every time the band play, they summon a primaeval basic instinct inside their “gathering”. The intensity of the music is like a shock-wave that reverberates to the core of the crowd. The rollercoaster of rock ‘n’ roll has seen the band dip in fortune and favour, but they have never fallen from grace where their faithful fans are concerned. Through the years, the band have stuck to their fiery brand of intense earth-shattering music that continues to inspire and influence. Apart from continuing to produce new material, Jaz, Youth and Paul all have their own “side-projects” and each is as deserving as any of the band’s contributions.  The 2022 tour “Honour the Fire”, sees the band air new material with the release of “Lord of Chaos” but of course, there was always going to be a few fan favourites thrown in and some lesser played back-catalogue for the hardcore.

The coveted support slot saw The Imbeciles cross the Atlantic to join Killing Joke and in particular Youth who had produced the band’s latest offering “Imbecilica”. The venue remained predominantly in darkness as the band entered the stage, guitar intro being played as they walked on then launched into their opening number “Name of the Rose”. The lighting warmed slightly, as did the crowd, and they were a definite contrast to their post-punk peers. The band had 30 mins to show case themselves to a potentially partisan crowd as Glasgow can be an unforgiving place but there was nothing to worry the Anglo-American rockers. The mix of overdriven crunchy guitars and punchy bass lines under pinned by some solid rock drumming made their material palatable for the onlookers. I overheard a “Cars meets Kravitz” comment in the crowd as the band ripped through their first few numbers. 

There’s two iconic references right there but The Imbeciles have more to offer as listening to there album (post gig) I could hear more varied influences. I often check out a bands new material before seeing them live but I heard them live first. Upon reflection, it might have been better to hear the nuances of the studio material first. Without any doubt the band had done their preparation for the tour as they were a tight unit but left enough raw delivery to satisfy lovers of live music. “It’s not about you” had a completely different dynamic from the first tune as it had a cleaner cut indie sound. The heavy bass line pushed the song to the edge of something harder and the triple guitars blended well as they chopped and changed throughout the song. 

I did hear a “Kravitz” feel in “Van Man” as the spoken word narrative led into a singalong chorus with some slick guitar solo work. The opening track to the latest album was the highlight of the set for me. “Tiny Blue People” is a great song to get you into the vibe of the band. “You’re Gonna Wanna” continued to showcase the band’s diversity as the stop-start breaks blow into some full-on banging bars of full-on alt-indie rock. The last song of the set “I’m not the one” brought John Kent’s vocals to the fore as the harmonies contrasted with the edgy cutting guitars to balance the song. The twin simultaneous solos worked well, and it was a great way to end a solid set. Apart from the band being in darkness for most of their set, their futures bright!

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The Barrowland Ballroom was packed by the time the intro music started. Jocelyn Pooks “Masked Ball” is such an atmospheric ethereal piece, it built drama with its haunting gothic chant. As the band took to the stage, a huge cheer from the crowd broke the atmosphere momentarily as the intro music continued to build the expectation. Paul Ferguson started playing his high hats, the show was underway and the unmistakable start to “Love Like Blood” had the crowd bouncing along straight away. The stage was drowned in blood-red lighting to set a macabre scene. Jaz Colemans theatrics were ever-present as his thousand-yard stare and intense presence set the tone. As the song ended, he snapped out of his possessed demeanour and shouted at the crowd, “Good evening…. Give us the energy” and the symbiotic relationship of band and crowd was acknowledged. Jaz continued by saying, “You know what’s gonna happen later this year…. Yeah” and “Wardance” was the response to his statement. Two songs in and the energy in the room was off the scale. The drums and bass tested the PA to its maximum and Geordies guitar had never sounded so menacing. The older tunes continued with “Fall of Because”, the epitome of those first two iconic albums. The drum work by Paul Ferguson was sublime as he somehow looked so placid, yet the rest of his body was in overdrive as he worked the kit to the max. In stark contrast, Youth’s minimal bassline still added plenty of punch to the song. Geordies guitar almost drowned out the drums and bass at times as it sounded like there was ten of him playing as the heavy cutting chords provided so much dimension to the overall sound. There was no rest between songs as Jaz screamed “I am the Virus” and the crowd continued to feed the frantic frontman with energy. Jaz pointed at Roi Robertson and the synth intro to “Requiem” kept the set on track to be a memorable one. The band had a few hesitant moments, but Jaz orchestrated the entire evening. Geordie stepped in at one point at the start of “Death and Resurrection Show” as he missed the queue, but they were back on track within seconds. Personal highlight for me was “Money is not our god” and there was a massive cheer for “Turn to Red” when Jaz introduced the song by saying, “When we were 18”. It served as a reminder of how long ago it was released.

There were a few unexpected gems played and the trio of songs from the 2003 “Killing Joke” album that relaunched the band went down a storm. “Total Invasion” and “Loose Cannon” were played after “Death and Resurrection” and resonated with the audience. The main set finished with the crowd-pleaser, “Pssyche”. Youth kicked off the singing and Jaz and Paul also had their verses to sing. Jaz egged the crowd on, and they reacted enthusiastically. As Geordie struck the last few chords, he handed his trusty ’59, ES295 Gibson, to Dave his tech and the band waved their goodbyes. Of course, the gig wasn’t over as there’s always “one more song” but the gregarious Glasgow crowd were treated to three more. Going by the setlists of the rest of the tour, where only one song had been played as an encore, they had been rewarded for their energy.

The band have favoured an eclectic mix on this tour and the encore kicked off with “The Pandy’s are Coming”. More predictably, the b side to the popular “Requiem” was up next. A huge cheer went up as “Change” maintained the intensity before the final song was unleashed. No surprises as “Pandemonium” closed out a magnanimous performance from Killing Joke. The crowd gave their resounding approval with a deafening cheer that outlasted the band’s presence as they left the stage. The band continue to light fires within their following and as long as they continue to honour them, there’s no sign of an end to Killing Joke.

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