Killing Joke have always spoken about their concerts with an oddly spiritual reverence. For the past thirty-five years, the British post-punk innovators have offset their abrasive, urban art-punk with consistent talk of ritualism, invocation and community.
That hyperbole, combined with their advanced years and notoriously chaotic interpersonal history, makes one automatically suspicious of the success of their latest Brisbane performance. Doubly so, given they haven’t toured Australia in nearly ten years.
The crowd doesn’t inspire. Consisting largely of aged goths and black-clad retro punks, The Hi-Fi’s attendance seems like that of an act touring on the basis of nostalgia. Unsurprising, given the band are celebrating the recent release of their comprehensive singles collection.
When the opening strains of 1980’s Requiem start to hover eerily over the crowd, holding onto that skepticism grows difficult. There’s very little ceremony about Killing Joke themselves. Hair cascading wildly, dressed in a sleeveless shirt, frontman Jaz Coleman looks feral. Bassist Martin ‘Youth’ Glover takes to the stage sporting an inexplicably daggy sun visor. The power they conjure, however, is undeniable.
There’s very little movement. Coleman stands rooted at centre-stage. His eyes are electric. When not desperately gripping a microphone, his hands emphasise each declamatory lyric with a wild, emphatic gesture. Glover and guitarist Kevin ‘Geordie‘ Walker meander idly in the background. The music, though. The music is unbelievable. Everything they’ve always claimed.
It begins with Requiem. A grandiose churn of New Wave-damaged Sabbath metal. A fittingly primal Wardance follows. When the set shifts to more contemporary material with 2010’s trance-flecked European Super State, it’s hard not to marvel at the band’s consistency. Their set stretches across fifteen albums and thirty-five years of material – but there’s little to no quality trade-off between 1980’s Change and 2012’s Rapture.
Defined largely through cycling tribal rhythms, their performance has an unwavering pulse that makes manifest that oft-referenced spiritual viscera. Their energy continually escalates as their set progresses – growing ever more coruscating and deafening with each production. Latter-set highlight Asteroid is little more than a primal bellow and a pummeling wall of percussion and noise.
Audiences are drawn into their maelstrom. The crowd surges with each rhythm. Fists are raised in solidarity. Lyrics shouted in uniformity. Yet, it’s neither violent nor unforgiving. It’s simply potent. Spiritually eviscerating. When the band finally close with a blistering rendition of classic 1980 b-side Pssyche (Glover and Coleman trading yells in a rare display of fraternity), their decades of seemingly-hyperbolic myth-making actually seem to have been justified. Transformative.
Venue: The Hi-Fi 125 Boundary St. 4101 Brisbane, QLD
Dates: 6 June 2013
Bookings: 1300 843 443 | www.thehifi.com.au