Review by Cath Gaskin, photos by Tony Gaskin
Placebo have been defying convention since they invaded our consciousness in 1994, and with 7 albums, all of which attained top 20 status, it’s fair to say they deserve their place amongst the rock elite.
With no studio release since 2013’s Loud Like Love, this tour is more of a retrospective look at what’s been a colourful, and sometimes controversial, career. Seven albums in 20 years doesn’t seem a lot, but every Placebo album is a carefully constructed and thought out project, works of art even, with every aspect having to be perfect, so we forgive them and accept that in this case the old adage quality over quantity is so true.
With such a relatively small back catalogue the set was going to be packed with everyone’s favourites, and as the lights dimmed we are teased with a remix version of ‘Pure Morning’, a track very rarely played live, a victim of the “Big Hit Syndrome”, played to death at the time. Molko and Olsdal stride onto stage, full of confidence. Gone are the androgynous looks, Molko looking more like Johnny Depp these days, plain black shirts and jeans are the order of the day in contrast to the superb light show. Olsdal still shows some of that camp swagger, at times provocatively gyrating with his guitar, whilst at other times his tall lanky frame looms over you like a mantis.
The band has always been full of contradictions, from their looks to the varied music. Molko may have shrugged off the more feminine look, but his voice is still angelic. One of the most accomplished vocalists out there, it’s both distinctive and powerful, able to move you with tracks like ‘Too Many Friends’ and frighten you with the full on ‘Meds’.
Tonight they open up with ‘B3’, ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Loud Like Love’ before the first big moment of ‘Every You, Every Me’, and this is the way the gig goes, each little segment slowly building, then down again until the ultimate climax of ‘Meds’, ‘Song To Say Goodbye’, ‘Special K’ and ‘Bitter End’ and with the crowd left wanting more. The obligatory walk off then back on moment with a four song encore which included that Kate Bush song. This fan though still yearns for a full live rendition of ‘Pure Morning’ and another notable absentee ‘Nancy Boy’.
Molko and Olsdal have always strived for a perfect complete package, it’s not just about them up there, they surround themselves with consummate and multi talented musicians who swap instruments. The light show is an integral part of the experience and the guitar changes after nearly every song aren’t about tuning up or endorsements, they are about having the perfect tone and sound for that particular song. And speaking of the sound, it was the best I’ve heard at a large rock gig for a long time.
Placebo are true artists in every sense of the word, and in the wonderful surroundings and splendour of De Montfort Hall, tonight has been a memorable experience. Long may they continue to give us quality over quantity, we wouldn’t want it any other way.