Whilst not actually advertised as a sauna, West London’s Subterania sweatbox easily doubled as one tonight – causing your correspondent and a few thousand other of long-in-tooth-and-claw post-punk influencers Killing Joke’s ‘gathering’ to sweat around three swimming pool’s worth of bodily fluids. The band being almost exclusively lit in red for the duration adds to a slightly hellish atmosphere, strangely fitting for a band whose live shows retain a sense of power and intensity to fuck off many others.

Meantime, a sense of occasion thankfully prevails – for this venue was historically Acklam Hall, where the very same ‘Joke lineup launched their seminal self-titled debut back in 1980. This unexpected and happily-received run of shows continues a slew of activities celebrating their fortieth anniversary – already duly acknowledged by a million-date world tour undertaken last year.

Jaz Coleman: Seeing Red

Possibly in reference to a 2003-era show coming out on DVD, a few tracks from that same year’s self-titled album have made their way into the set: the brilliantly menacing Total Invasion, the anthemic Seeing Red and the brilliantly menacing Loose Cannon. Shouting the final ‘Bang!’ in the lyrics with two fingers pointed at his head, singer Jaz Coleman – still the scariest and least predictable frontman going, and all the better for it – then collapses. Initially thought to be stage histrionics, he’s instantly revived by an on-the-ball longtime techie/roadie chap ‘Diamond’ Dave and we realise something actually went wrong – the searing heat thought to be the culprit.

Geordie Fucking Walker

The unflappable Geordie Walker.

To Coleman’s huge credit, he and the band plough on for a few more numbers: the industrial spook-barrage of Exorcism, the face-shredding The Wait, and the deathless Pssyche. A short break, and he returns for an encore of usual set-closer Pandemonium. Thankfully, Jaz turns out to be okay and by the time this late copy is turned in, he and the band reportedly delivered a faultless, blistering set in Brighton.

Jaz and Youth

Jaz and Youth

Elsewhere, support came not only from longtime dub-reggae-spoken word culprits Radical Dance Faction, but also from Mantra – a brilliantly eclectic collection featuring a violinist, saxophonist, two Hare Krishnas and a tap-dancer. It appears to be a mixture of folky-somethingorother and while they initially inspire reactions of ‘…am I at the right gig?’ they win over the ten or so people who have turned up early enough to grab a barrier spot, being tragically missed by the rest of the eventual audience.

Back to the ‘Joke: skinsman ‘Big’ Paul Ferguson’s drumming remains startling in its pinpoint tribal precision and sheer power, especially at close range. Martin ‘Youth’ Glover’s superb rubbery bass underpins it, while Geordie’s unmistakable and indescribable guitar tone washes over the lot, as Coleman’s volcano-throated barking is the cherry-bomb on top. Mechanical Cabaret mainman Roi Robertson remains on keys.

Big Paul Ferguson

To still be utterly uncategorisable, relevant and packing a supreme punch forty years after inception is an inspiration to all other bands, who will never, ever, amount to Killing Joke.

“Are you looking forward to October 31st?” Asks Jaz, before European Super State. “Well you should, because a new Killing Joke album comes out!”

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