It’s not every day that the opportunity arises to see one of your “bucket list” bands in the stunningly ornate Victorian engine shed across the road from your flat, but – as It did last year with Queens of the Stone Age and Sigur Ros – sometimes fate throws you a bone.After 11 years of missing them for one reason or another, I finally caught Placebo.
Forgetting The Mirror Trap, the utterly forgettable token “trust-fund-kids-who-blatantly-paid-a-four-figure-sum-for-this-slot” support act (well, forgettable besides the fact that the singer left the stickers on the bottom of his shoes that definitely cost more than his bottom-rung Ibanez starter guitar and modelling amp combo and “Hipster Bez”, who played his solitary snare drum with “closed eyes, pursed lips” “conviction”). Placebo rewarded every second of my decade-long wait to see them with bombast, bravado and a pocketful of deep cuts and treats for the hardcore fans who, for once at the iTunes festival (let’s not talk about the “click everything and see what we win” morons who talked obnoxiously loudly through half of Sigur Ros’ set and left before the second), made up the entirety of tonight’s audience.
Besides an early airing of “Without You I’m Nothing” single “Every Me, Every You”, Placebo weren’t in a reminiscent mood tonight. Instead of a “greatest hits” set including “Nancy Boy”, “Bruise Pristine”, “Pure Morning” et al, Molko and Co treated their throbbing mob to Meds-era deep-cuts “One Of A Kind” and “Post-Blue” and a show-stopping bi-polar “Meds” that began in its hushed, introspective Angkor Wat rearrangement, morphing into a raging frenzy in its second verse (it certainly seemed that “Meds” had skipped the lithium tonight). Besides, if you want to hear their “greatest hits”, there’s plenty of live footage of them on YouTube – the band don’t even have to pretend that they’re not bored of playing them!
Songs from the still-fairly-new LP “Loud Like Love” carry much more weight than their recorded counterparts, the machine-beat intro and soaring crescendos of “Exit Wounds” and a beefed-up rendition of “Scene of the Crime” hopefully becoming setlist staples for many tours to come. Though Molko’s lyrics in “A Million Little Pieces” allude to him losing his spark, it’s pretty clear from this material’s jump in quality from LLL’s ropey, uncharacteristically cheerful predecessor “Battle For The Sun” that this is not the case.
Though “Taste In Men” is absent from tonight’s set, taste in guitars certainly isn’t. The guitar geek in me was definitely satisfied by Brian’s exhibition of his guitar collection, switching instruments practically every song. I’m a massive Fender Jaguar nut, so seeing his gorgeous sonic blue and fiesta red jags in action was just as exciting to me as hearing “Special K” and “The Bitter End”, even if they were covered in Sellotape to prevent wayward Molko hands from knocking knobs out of whack. Stefan’s no slouch with his gear selection, either, sporting a gorgeous Gretsch White Falcon for a good portion of the night.
Ending their set with a group bow, the smiles that had adorned the faces of everyone on stage – the permanent Placebo fixtures and the instrument-swapping session players – burst into grins. “They seemed a lot happier tonight than they have been for a while”, an ecstatic audience member told me. Having lost my Placebo virginity tonight, I had no other shows to compare this to. However, it was obvious from start to finish that, after two decades of continuous business, Molko and co aren’t prepared to hit cruise control like so many other bands their age. Whilst some bemoan the absence of the band’s older hits, perhaps the secret behind Placebo’s longevity and unrelenting passion is to keep things fresh. I, for one, am looking forward to catching them at their next destination.
Photo credit of Natasha.