(From the Guardian, a London-based daily newspaper, 7 October 2003.)
Metropolitan University, Leeds
Tuesday October 7, 2003
As rock's equivalent of chaps who parade up and down high streets with banners reading "The end is nigh", Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman found himself adrift in the 1990s. However, post-9/11 and post-Iraq, Killing Joke's mission could not have been more neatly revitalised if the four horsemen had arrived at Coleman's house. The band's new, eponymous album, full of raging stuff about Uncle Sam, has received the best reviews of their 25-year career, while the tour is attracting crowds as big as any in their 1980s heyday.
Coleman has waited for this moment. Eyes staring, face painted white, he looks - and sounds - like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne, the Grim Reaper and a druid. "This is for next year ... and your prime minister," he says forebodingly before Wardance. In the wake of Israel's attack on Syrian land, Total Invasion's warning - "It's conflagration!" - packs a disturbing punch.
Unusually for a band of this vintage, the new songs match the old. Guitarist Geordie excels himself by hitting the back of his guitar, while Coleman takes advantage of the student venue to pinpoint the main flaw in the education system: "It's shit." Repeatedly, he fixes on something horrible in the distance - which may just be the mixture of spiky haircuts and bald pates that marks the Killing Joke audience these days.
But this is a different Coleman. Now in his 40s, he is letting his raging intensity give way to a more wry, almost Victor Meldrew-ish aghastness. He is one of rock's true thespians, who should really have a crack at King Lear. Here, he is moved at the crowd's response to Asteroid, a cheery number about a ball of fire hitting the earth. With Coleman increasingly emotional, the band dust off Follow the Leaders. Written about Thatcher, the chorus of "Do you believe them?" is witheringly relevant. The only question is how Killing Joke can retain this form. Unless, of course, Tony Blair obliges by invading somewhere else.
· At Rock City, Nottingham, tonight. Box office: 0115-958 8484. Then touring.