Live Review: Killing Joke at The O2 Academy, Leeds [8th April 2022]

Jaz Coleman and his merry stalwarts storm the battlefields and conquer Leeds.

Review by John Hayhurst

Photo by Chris Mackins

Can these sixty-some-things from post punk Notting Hill actually still cut it in 2022? That’s the question running through my head, but it takes seconds of hearing Geordie Walker’s classic opening riff to Love Like Blood to realise that this band are special, unique and hold a place in the very hearts of this adoring crowd gathered in the Goth Capital of Yorkshire (outside of Whitby).

There is a lot of leather and bald heads around, and a lot of How Much? going on when the expected Friday night session at the Academy bar is cut short by the £6+ price tag on a pint.
The poignancy of the lyrics of that opening track hit home – “We must play our lives like soldiers in the field…” Written in 1985, over 30 years later with war raging in Ukraine, it all takes on a quite literal meaning. The delivery is everything, Jaz Coleman stands, arms aloft, and stares with those Marty Feldman eyes straight into your soul. “’Til the fearless come and the act is done…a Love Like Blood”, epic in tone and message, and the loudest darkest thing I’ve heard in this concert hall for years. Seriously, they should issue compulsory ear defenders for the front row.

The now deaf throng at the front started an early sweatfest, through Love Like Blood, an immense Wardance, and then The Fall of Because, this set the tone for a thrilling run through their huge back catalogue. Any of those 90’s industrial metal bands owe a debt to Killing Joke for paving the way – NIN and even Marilyn Manson have cited this band as an influence to their creation.

The continual breathing of new life into old tunes happens over and over again, Requiem, The Wait and finally Pssyche. Youth and Paul Ferguson providing the tribal backbone throb, and Geordie with guitar riffs that should not come out of a Gibson ES-295. Coleman merely conducts the orchestra, provides the narration, occasionally bursting into fits of madness, this is a dark twisted musical gothic circus that everyone should witness at least once in their lives. Age may have mellowed Coleman, but it has made his appearance more macabre, in a similar way to Alice Cooper – but without the pantomime.

Encores bring the classic Change and Pandemonium and whilst this is a celebration of 4 x 60+ year old veterans, there is a wry nod to the future as Coleman says “It’s going to get worse, so lets channel our fears together” I have no doubt they will be back to do the rounds again in another 5-10 years. “’Til the fearless come and the act is done…a Love Like Blood”.

Killing Joke Setlist:

Love Like Blood, Wardance, The Fall of Because, I Am the Virus, Requiem, We Have Joy, Money Is Not Our God, This World Hell, Primitive, Turn to Red, Mathematics of Chaos, The Death and Resurrection Show, Total Invasion, Loose Cannon, The Wait, Pssyche.

Encore: The Pandys are Coming, Change, Pandemonium.