|Killing Joke at Wiltern Theater. Photo by Miranda Inganni.|
The Coming Race to the End
By John Esther
Finishing off their North American Tour 2010, London's Killing Joke played before a full, somewhat restrained, audience Saturday night at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.
Executioners of throbbing beats, intellectual angst and a breathtaking belief that the end is nigh, Killing Joke have influence bands such as Nine Inch Nails, System of a Down, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Tool, Metallica, Faith No More, Ministry, Nouvelle Vague and many others since the band's first eponymous record back in 1981. (A second one came in 2003). While the band has went through many lineup changes over the years, after the death of bassist Paul Raven in 2007 the original members of Killing Joke toured together for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Drummer Paul Ferguson, guitarist Kevin "Geordie" Walker, an unidentified bassist wearing a "Where's Youth" t-shirt (because he was replacing Martin "Youth" Glover who had to leave about a week ago -- boooot), and a unidentified keyboardist took to the stage before Killing Joke's legendary lead vocalist, Jaz Coleman, came on in a black jumpsuit (auto mechanic's uniform?), wearing black mascara and a few extra pounds.
The 100-minute show started with vicious versions of "Tomorrow's World" (dedicated to the former LA resident, Raven) and "Love Like Blood" (one of my favorites) before moving onto "Wardance" (a crowd favorite, but not mine), "Absolute Dissent," "Bloodsport," "European Super State," "The World Hell," "The Fall of Because," "Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove," "Madness," a wonderful version of "Requiem," "Primitive," "The Great Cull," and "Asteroid," then really digging in with the final two songs of the opening set, "The Wait," and "Pssyche."
Coleman shook things up on stage while everyone else, except Walker, was enthusiastic about his part. Distant and cold, the birthday boy Walker displayed very little emotion in what he was doing. He and the members were very tight, but Walker stood there like it was a rehearsal (and this is coming from someone who has seen a few Wire and Kraftwerk concerts). When they brought him a birthday cake and the audience sang "Happy Birthday" Walker just seemed annoyed. Writing of bad manners, Walker lit and smoked a cigarette while performing onstage inside the famous art deco building, which was not cool, but I did get a chuckle when he stared down the menacing photographer who had kept getting in the way of the audience's view and now had apparently gotten in the way of Walker.
(This last incident triggered a recollection, if my memory serves me well. There was once this inane 1980s-interview with Depeche Mode where one of the members was asked by some imbecile journalist that if there was ever a physical fight between all the rock & roll bands around who would win and someone from Depeche Mode said, "Killing Joke.")
As engaging as ever, in between songs Coleman weighed in on current political crises such as Korea, war, US/EU relations and other concerns he has not shed over the decades.
In lieu of the fact the band and the crowd were getting older and the end is closer – collectively or otherwise – the frenetic mosh pits of early Killing Joke concerts were greatly subdued. Only when Killing Joke played "Eighties" during the encore did there seem to be some mass trigger of youthful excitement, perhaps a subconscious pining for the days when we all believed "the coming race" was "not for sale no more." At any rate, for a concert ending with the song "Pandemonium," it was rather sedate.