Killing Joke at Hammersmith Apollo 9.4.2022 with Brix Smith supporting
When I was a kid we groaned a bit when our favourite bands played here at the Hammersmith Odeon, as it was then – it was all seated with the added hassle of trying to get seats together with friends and buying tickets anywhere near the front. Let’s not forget, it involved someone going up to the venue and queuing at the box office or sending a cheque or postal order and a stamped self-addressed envelope… and now we moan about a few quid for a booking fee or a fiddly website booking. Mind you with most gigs we just turned up back then.
Plenty of time on a sunny afternoon to wander down to the lovely, busy, pricey riverside pubs of Hammersmith – The Dove, The Blue Anchor and The Rutland, which we could actually buy a drink at and stand outside. Then it was on to The Swan, back in the middle of the Hammersmith traffic chaos, a regular pre-gig pub when I started going to gigs at the wonderful Hammersmith Palais and the Odeon.
The Odeon, now the Eventim Apollo is now one of my favourite venues, with its downstairs seats removable it has a 5000 capacity while still maintaining the ability to see, get served at the ornate art deco bar and get in, out and around the place ok. The markedly sloping floor enables a great view and of course without the seats you can, as we did, just stroll down to wherever you want to be – quite often with older bands you find if you persevere and get through to the front but it’s not as crowded as it appears.
On a countback I think this is my ninth Killing Joke gig with four of those being in the early 80s and the first being by chance on 26 October 1980 in front of 80,000 people in Trafalgar Square. That one was a CND rally when I was at school and I went along with a few mates (Paul S and Wayne M). I can’t remember if we knew bands were playing but in any event we didn’t know who. At some point after the anti-bomb speeches a bloke on the tannoy announced “now we’ve got some music for you… please welcome Killing Joke!” Paul was off down the front exclaiming “f*cking hell it’s Killing Joke”. I’d not heard of them but shuffled forward less urgently as Change and Requiem blasted out, among a handful of songs. That was it for me. I bought that single, or double A- side, the following week and I was hooked. This momentous event was captured here.
I found some old film camera photos I took at a Birmingham Tower Ballroom gig in 1983, along with my ticket. I lived in a Killing Joke ‘What’s This For’ t-shirt at that time. I wore it until it shredded through over use.
Other early 80s gigs included Leicester University and Birmingham Powerhouse. The last KJ gig I was at was this special one at Subterania.
We got in to the Apollo a little late, missing both the rush and the first band. Brix Smith and band, once of The Fall, were on next. I just didn’t get them, but then I never got The Fall. We had at least established a good central forward spot for Killing Joke.
Bit of a surprise when they started with their biggest single Love Like Blood. Many KJ fans may view this chart success as something of a low point. So a gentle start but next it was War Dance, an early single which I see as the theme tune of KJ with so many of their songs being like air punching war dances led by that classic Jaz stance.
With their first big single Requiem following soon after it’s as if the set is being played in reverse order. The opening synth sound being hammered out at the start of that one is so dramatic still. Back in the 80s Jaz would be behind his synth playing with one hand, the other often aloft grasping, pointing, saluting. Now he’s always out front conducting with an extra touring keyboardist to help. Other than that, it’s the original line up with Geordie Walker (guitar), Youth (bass) and Big Paul Ferguson (drums).
KJ have around 15 studio albums and I have the first three and one more recent one, Absolute Dissent. This means I’m getting a bit more remote from their music and the mid-set I don’t know so well, much as I enjoyed the whole sound…it’s a big sound….a body shaker. (Setlist)
Geordie and Youth look so calm in all the mayhem and don’t say a word. Jaz is the voice, the leader, conducting and communicating.
Nearing the end of the main set and a track from the first album which has become a firm favourite: The Wait with it’s simple controlled scream of a chorus. Then the more upbeat racing Psyche, an early single which almost falls over itself trying to get to the ‘Psyche’ bit. The main set ends. A break and a return with four more songs including Change… back where KJ all started for me. Such a raw single.
A great way to spend my 59th birthday. I don’t suppose when I stood as a 17-year-old in Trafalgar Square hearing Killing Joke playing Change for the first time, that I’d be back in London 42 years later still getting a buzz from that same song. Another of life’s anthems for me.
I use my own pics throughout these blogs but to end I’ll make an exception as Dave captured that ‘thank you goodnight’ moment.