(review by MWJ – footnotes by Sync – pics from viperslair.co.uk)
So some speedy last minute arrangements saw me off to lose my Killing Joke virginity, ferrying the far more experienced Sync and Fatman under the Mersey. My and Steve’s lengthy debate on “all women are bad” failed to take the post honeymoon glow from Andy but we did get round to discussing the band as well. They’re obviously a famous name but my own knowledge of them was pretty limited, a proto-industrial punk band originating in 1979, had some stuff off first album, knew covers of their stuff that had been done, had a couple of good ep’s but also remember having to throw away one atrocious 80’s pop one as well. Still, from all I’d heard (including previous reviews here) and testament to their own endurance had a feeling that they would be a worthwhile experience.
Early doors with the venue going into club mode after eleven meant we were amongst the first there, and there wasn’t really many more for a long time after that. Interesting to read Phil’s recent comments on turnout in Liverpool , very much the same when I was last here at the smaller downstairs bit for Cult of Luna, no matter how good the band is an empty venue can be a downer on the atmosphere. So for the first band Tribatik the hall looked a bit cavernous an empty. Apparently they had some connection to working in the studio with Killing Joke on their forthcoming album, so maybe that had helped them get these support slots, but for all the glorious opportunity that might seem I’d be pretty disappointed myself if it was only playing to the handful that were there. Still they put in a decent performance that sounded excellent through the big rig. Largely instrumental, predominately space rock-y type stuff, they threw a lot of other ingredients into the mix (thrash/reggae!) that at times could make the songs seem a little disjointed or certain sections cut short but at the same time the variety maintained interest when there were no vocal hooks etc. The bassist has an intriguing near vertical/double bass playing style, which was something new.
We’d been assured by their mate on the merchandise stall that October File would blow us away, but I didn’t feel much of a breeze to be honest. It was solid, gothicky metal, pretty heavy and with strong chorus hooks but I wouldn’t say of any great complexity or originality. The front man’s growl definitely added to the metal feel, but he also inspired a bit of annoyance from not just myself at his rather clichéd posturing, a bit of a mix of Rob Halford and Glenn Danzig, just not convincing. The matching logo black shirts also smacked of a managers advice/influence but maybe my cynicism was just on the rise through a expecting something more. According to their flyers they’ve certainly lined up a stack of gigs, not just these supports but some with the Misfits™ and Anti-Nowhere League as well, so maybe hard work is paying off for them but not my cup of (lukewarm) tea.
The place had definitely filled by the time Killing Joke started, a Gang of Four track providing their intro. Several hundred “gatherers” (the band dislike the word fans apparently) in now, though I don’t know if that would have compared favourably relative to other cities on the tour. The older age range here, inevitable given a 25 year history, obviously aren’t bothered about upstart supports but the numbers coming purely for the main band is a reassuring portent. The sound is fantastic from the off, all the instruments powerful and pounding. Jaz Coleman is a natural front man, boiler suited, face painted, crazy dancing and mime, effortlessly holding the focus of the crowd in his grasp. I’d heard him described as “the industrial Ozzy Osbourne” and you could see elements of that in his freaky stary-eyed theatrics, but while Ozzy may be just a little dazed and confused Jaz seems to retain a lot more sharpness, despite (alleged, and maybe equivalent) indulgence over the years. His brief between song barbs on politics, beliefs, etc seem genuine and convincing without any points being laboured. His vocals are also top notch (“the best in the business” says Sync and I can’t argue), the contrast between the almost spoken, gentle melody of verses and the gruff roar of choruses is remarkable. Raven on bass is far more animated than when I saw him with Godflesh a few years back, despite still possessing the eyes of a man who hasn’t slept for a year. Geordie seems to play with an extremely laid back style, almost bluesy strumming on his semi-acoustic looking guitar that totally belies the killer chugtastic industrial riffage that’s coming out. They have a new drummer, Benny, and his youthful energy goes into really hammering tribal rhythms out, the most severe beating I’d recall seeing since Ted Parsons. Rez(?) on the keyboards is also right up front on the stage, which I hear is a new development, definitely showing the importance of the keyboard vibes, washes and swirling patterns in their sound mix.
They play most songs I know, “Wardance”, “The Wait” and “Requiem” from the earliest days but despite being none the wiser for the majority of the rest it is still immensely catchy and enjoyable for their 90 minute set. This is apparently a greatest hits style set but with some more obscure album tracks resurrected, a winner with crowd for sure. I am blown away when after enjoying the first half of the set of rhythmic heaviness they pick up the tempo into a section of faster numbers that destroyed, “Asteroid” grinded like an asteroid and “Frenzy” built to one. There was maybe a couple that didn’t come across so well but that was probably only in comparison to the strength of the bulk of their material. A brief break before a 2 song encore, the set maybe cut a little because of the curfew/changeover, they express genuine gratitude for the “happy days” they’ve always had in Liverpool, Jaz also embraces each of the band members in turn, happiness all round. The almost fanfare like keyboard intro of “Pandemonium” signals the closer and I for one am delighted to eventually get round to having the experience.
On the way home, eventually able to obliterate Fatman’s memories of bucking camels around the pyramids through the blastbeats of every Egyptologists favourite death metallers Nile.
Sync’s notes –
Superb night; cheers to Mark for driving the very thirsty Fatman and myself to the gig. I thought Tribatik were a great support band; the start of their set was a sample of a steam train starting up chugging and getting faster until the band kicked in with their space rock Hawkwind-like sound. I enjoyed all of their set, which is unheard of for me watching a live band for the first time, and I would make an effort to see this band live again. Also wasn’t impressed with October File after being told by their merchandise attendant that I would be back to buy the CD after their set (oh no I fucking won’t!)
Nearing the start of Killing Joke‘s set, I had an almost deja-vu like experience taking me back 2 years when we saw KJ in this very same venue with the same Gang Of Four track as their walk on music. Jaz was and looked on top form again as usual (best voice in the business), Not sure about Geordie’s reversed baseball cap! But the guy looks cool whatever he’s wearing, and after 25 years Raven knows how to play his bass without looking at his fingers, which means he can scan the crowd for faces he knows or doesn’t know, psyching them out with his intimidating gestures and facial expressions. The set tonight included – Communion, Wardance, Song & Dance, We Have Joy, Primitive, Frenzy, Total Invasion, Bloodsport, Requiem, Asteroid, The Wait, Whiteout, Psyche, Darkness Before Dawn, Sun Goes Down, and Pandemonium. I’ve seen them 5 times now, and this was another superb gig by a band that don’t do bad gigs, and I just hope they continue to perform for years to come giving me more opportunities to see them live, as they have become, over the years, like a religion to me, with Jaz being the coolest and most obscure preacher to walk this planet.