The Phoenix Concert Theatre

Toronto, ON

Date: December 7, 2010


When asked by interviewers about the incredible intensity of Killing Joke’s live shows, frontman Jaz Coleman often describes it as “white heat.” It evokes an incandescent, almost unbearable state of performance, and I’ve certainly felt it during previous KJ shows. Whether or not the 32-year-old band felt it during their Tuesday night Toronto performance, you’d have to ask them. The crowd didn’t seem to, at least at first.

Chalk that up perhaps to the weather outside (very cold), the response to local dance rock openers Lioness (middling), the half-hour delay in the Joke’s hitting the stage, or, most probably, the median age of the audience. The Phoenix was filled with greying, middle-aged men, many of whom cheered when Coleman asked the audience if any of them had been at the band’s 1982 show at the long-defunct club Larry’s Hideaway. (That set formed the basis of their live 1982 EP Ha!)

Perhaps knowing their audience demographics, the band – which consists of Coleman, guitarist Geordie, original drummer “Big” Paul Ferguson and bassist Martin “Youth” Glover (replacing Paul Raven who died in 2007) – devoted much of their set list to their early albums, playing six of the eight cuts off their self-titled 1980 debut (“Requiem,” “Wardance,” “Tomorrow’s World,” “Bloodsport,” “The Wait,” “Primitive”, and the “Wardance” B-side “Pssyche”) while “The Fall of Because” and the rarely-performed “Madness” came from 1982’s What’s THIS For?

But the band had a new album to flog and didn’t shy away from playing several cuts from it. It proved a wise choice as Absolute Dissent (released recently through Spinefarm Records) is a cracker of a record, giving the lie to the idea that a bunch of old farts (ages range from 49 to 52) can’t make music vitriolic enough to tear a hole in the time-space continuum. New songs like “Absolute Dissent,” “European Super State,” “This World Hell” “Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove” and especially “The Great Cull” received much applause and compared favourably with the classics.

In an unusual move, the Joke trotted out their best-known song, “Love Like Blood,” from 1985’s Night Time LP, early on. They would return to that record for the encore of “Eighties” and finish with the title track from 1994’s “Pandemonium.”

The crowd appreciated the effort, rewarding the band with loud applause, even if they seemed oddly tame. Perhaps they were just caught up with what had to be one of the loudest and most intense gigs Toronto has seen in awhile. White heat, indeed.


Rating: 4/5



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