Placebo are one of those bands who demand respect and with 20 years in the business and seven well received albums later, singer-guitarist Brian Molko and guitarist-bassist Stefan Olsdal made a rare visit to Bristol to run through a blistering 21-song set on Thursday, March 19th at Colston Hall.
The venue was already packed by the time support act The Mirror Trap took to the stage. Hailing from Dundee in Scotland, the band is made up of three guitarists, a bass guitarist, keyboards and drummer. Behind them a ‘TMT’ backdrop lit up in lights that appeared justified as the band gave a composed and confident performance. Dressed in black and well crafted songs meant that the sound was a well-suited appetizer for the main course. Indeed the band as cherry picked by Molko himself after he popped into a small Dundee music venue and watched the band whilst visiting his mother who still lives in the town.
TMT showed no sign of nerves playing the substantially larger venue and grasped the moment and by the time they reached the finale crouched over guitars and smashing the hell out of stuff, they had made sure all present would seek out the band in future and really well received.
And so for the main course as Placebo took to the stage to energetic and rapturous applause with Molko and Olsdal, the only original members joined by their touring band.
The place was bouncing by the time Placebo reached the title track of their seventh album, Loud Like Love (QRO review), which heralds a less ‘dark’ feel to the bands origins some 20 years ago, instead the stage was drenched in bright cheerful colorful lights which often left the band silhouetted against this backdrop.
Throughout Molko smiled and was full of thanks as each song was enthusiastically received. There was little chat or story telling, and instead it was an evening where the music would be left to do the talking.
With so many ‘hits’ to choose from, it was inevitable that there would be some who were not going to make the menu for the night, but one such hit to reach the table was “Every You Every Me”. A tall lanky and bearded Olsdal with his rainbow coloured bass strutted around the front of the stage stretching out his guitar as though giving his baselines a head start to reach the back of the venue ripping through the crowd.
Many songs gave the opportunity for audience participation encouraged to raise their hands and clap along especially through “Rob the Bank”, as tracks were aired from a varied selection of albums.
From time to time Molko with his full head of long black hair allowed time for silence between songs as he worked the audience like a well skilled conductor, allowing anticipation to rise as we progressed through the evening.
The frontman introduced “Special Needs”, a track from the band’s 2003 record Sleeping With Ghosts, as a song they had not played for years, and that they really didn’t know why – and judging by the reaction of those present, it is a track that really should be brought out on a more regular basis with it’s demanding lyrics to forever haunt, “Remember me through flash photography and screams / Remember me, special dreams,” as the song reached it’s last few notes, the backdrop dropped darkening the room bar some flickering electric blue lights. Remember me.
Throughout the evening Molko appeared to have a different guitar for every particular song and “Space Monkey” was grungy and menacing to the point that if, an angle grinder had been brought out, no one would have noticed, such was the menace and urgency accompanied by very powerful heavy bass lines from Olsdal as they pounded the way forward.
Not that Olsdal was to be left out when it came to instrument changes, as he pulled out a beautiful large pearl white guitar (not to dissimilar to the beast of a guitar used by Billy Duffy of The Cult on the Love album) for “Exit Wounds”.
There were times that the night appeared take have a few lulls, but hardly surprising with such a grueling tour schedule, the temptation must be there to flip into cruise control and allow the vehicle to do the work and at times that energy came from the audience, especially during 2006 “Meds”, which was a popular choice with the audience singing along, with it’s slow start before giving it double barrels, blinding lights before ending with a simple blood red light on the singer.
“Special K” one of Placebo’s best know tracks saw people in the stalls breaking into mass dancing as the energy picked up along with a pretty feeble attempt by a long haired hippy looking bloke trying to crowd surf.
Intensity building saw the stalls now positively pogoing as “The Bitter End” got it’s compulsory airing, still sounding as great as it did back in 2003. Perfect climax was reached arms were raised in appreciation as the band left the stage with a victory sign from conquering hero Molko and a parting word of “peace” into the mic as he departed.
The encore saw four further songs including a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, with the drummer beating his bearskins in an excellent rendition.
One more final song, “Infrared”, “Before we shuffle off Bristol,” was the response from Molko and an acknowledgement that it had been some time since they had played the city. The end of the piece saw everyone except the founding members alone with their guitars allowing the distortion the flow as they rested against the speakers and experimented with their effects pedals for a minute or two taking in the well deserved applause.
- For What It’s Worth
- Loud Like Love
- Every You Every Me
- Scene of the Crime
- A Million Little Pieces
- Rob the Bank
- Special Needs
- Too Many Friends
- Space Monkey
- Exit Wounds
- I Know
- Song to Say Goodbye
- Special K
- The Bitter End
- Begin the End
- Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) (Kate Bush cover)
- Post Blue