Review – Placebo – Brixton Academy 23 October 2017

Ah, one of my all-time favourites again tonight hopefully (hopefully due to the fact that a few previous gigs were cancelled due to Brian having lost his voice a couple of weeks back).  As it was, the gig went off without a hitch, albeit with Brian having to perform with less than perfect vocals, having not fully recovered by the time of the sound check.

Doors opened at 19:00 but the queue was massive (we arrived at 19:10) going around the block (Astoria Walk) and the all the way along Stockwell Park Walk.  It was my first visit to this venue, the inside which reminded me of a tired theme park, and I was pleasantly surprised.  However – the seats upstairs are a problem – they are both uncomfortable and at such an angle that it’s difficult to see the front of the stage.  Standing causes issues for anyone behind you, so the first few rows were instructed that they could not stand during the gig.

It was to be the final two gigs of their ‘20 Years world tour’ (but not now due to the re-schedules!) – yes, they’ve been around a while now.  Iconic, androgynous and sometimes mischievous, apart from having lost his voice, a slimmed down Brian also appears to have lost the puppy fat he carried last time I saw them in 2015.  Both Brian and Stefan sported new haircuts – Brian looked like he could join the Mormons and Stefan join the Hare Krishna’s – tee hee.  Now you’ve got to admit Brian has a history of bad haircuts (both him and Paul Weller have had the worst haircuts in rock).  But the sell-out crowd of nearly 5000 were there for the music, something the band excel at live.

At 8:45 the lights went down and we are treated to the “Every You Every Me (unreleased promo)” video in full on the stage backdrop before the band launched into ‘Pure Morning’.  Brian and Stefan were ably supported by: Drums Matt Lunn, Bill Lloyd keyboard/bass, Nick Gavrilovic guitars and Angela Chan keyboards/violin.

After the second song, Brian engaged into his only audience banter of the show.  He explained his throat problems and said that it wasn’t back to normal so that we, the audience, could become the singer in Placebo tonight!  He also asked us not to take photo’s/videos as it was distracting to him – not that anyone around me took any notice!

Stefan and Brian, both dressed in black, took residence at the front of the stage with Stefan mixing up instruments from guitar to bass to keyboards throughout.  The set list (see below) was a cross section of classics from their back catalogue.  The songs were interspersed with projected live feeds of the band, videos (‘Without You I’m Nothing’ was a tribute to the unforgettable Thin White Duke) and stobes.  Some of the slower mid-section songs really tested Brian’s vocals, his weakness apparent to all in its flatness. Some of the songs were arranged differently, I’m not sure if it was done deliberately to save Brian’s voice from hitting the usual high notes, but it definitely impacted the songs, especially as time wore on.

In keeping with previous gigs, I know it’s getting near the end when they play “Song To Say Goodbye” and “The Bitter End” and so it was!

They return for a two-song encore with Stefan holding aloft his rainbow guitar to mass applause.  The backdrop changes to a packet of fags with a Donald Trump effigy and wording of ‘seriously harms you and other around you’ when Brian finally leaves the stage last after a minute fiddling with feedback on his amp – a very R’n’R finish.

SetList (inc video links on YouTube)

  • Every You Every Me (“Early Cut”) video
  • Pure Morning (Without You I’m Nothing 1998)
  • Loud Like Love (Loud Like Love 2013)
  • Jesus’ Son (Life’s What You Make It 2016)Placebo - 20 years World tour UK leg 2
  • Soulmates (Sleeping With Ghosts 2003)
  • Special Needs (Sleeping With Ghosts 2003)
  • Too Many Friends (Loud Like Love 2013)
  • Twenty Years (Once More with Feeling: Singles 1996–2004 2004)
  • Placebo – I Know (Placebo 1996)
  • Devil in the Details (Battle for the Sun 2009)
  • Exit Wounds (Loud Like Love 2013)
  • Protect Me from What I Want (Sleeping With Ghosts 2003)
  • Without You I’m Nothing (Without You I’m Nothing 1998)
  • For What It’s Worth (Battle for the Sun 2009)
  • Slave to the Wage (Black Market Music 2000)
  • Special K (Black Market Music 2000)
  • Song to Say Goodbye (Meds 2006)
  • The Bitter End (Sleeping With Ghosts 2003)


  • Nancy Boy (Placebo 1996)
  • Infra-red (Meds 2006)

So, to summarise – they weren’t at their best (which is understandable), but even like this they were mighty impressive visually.  The songs do stand for themselves and the majority of the audience seemed to be having a bloody good time.Placebo Brixton Academy - 23 Oct 2017

Get well soon Brian.

Marko – 25 October 2017

Gig Review – The Icicle Works – O2 Academy Islington, London [21 October 2017].

Yes, it’s the Icicle Works in name but in reality, it’s the Ian McNabb show ably supported by his trusted backing band.  Playing roughly a 2½ hour show featuring the best bits from his Icicle Works days interspersed with some of his Solo work and show casing a few number from his latest LP ‘Star Smile Strong’. 

It’s been a while since I last saw them (11,414 days to be precise – Microsoft Excel is a wonderful tool!) at the Kentish Town & Country Club. Yes, that evening 31 years ago is etched firmly in my memory. I’m sure it was a great gig and I bought a very nice Hollow Horse t-shirt but alas I consumed far too much alcohol on the night to remember much.  So why is it etched in my memory I hear you ask – well alas on my way into work the next day the alcohol had taken its toll and within a whisker of Old St tube I suffered the ignominy of vomiting in the tube train.  When I got to work they took one look at me and said ‘go home you look dreadful’!. 

Now Ian’s always had a really good voice and his songs engage the listener with stories of love, drugs, life in general but generally with a dark twist. The big songs are just rousing affairs with singalong choruses that really deserve a stadium slot.  He appeared to have a frog in the proverbial throat tonight, but still put on a mightily impressive show.  Resplendent in his scruffiness – he’s like a younger Neil Young in more ways than one.  Firstly, dressed all in black in Ill-fitting tour t-shirt, trousers which he kept having to pull up and hat covering his straggly hair – he kind of resembled a street bum minus the obligatory dog!!  Secondly, a number of tonight’s songs had typical Neil Young endings (you never know when it’s going to finish) or get in a huddle with the band and play amongst yourselves. 

Appearance aside he’s got stage presence in abundance, is conscientious with his sound (forever retuning his guitar), has a sense of humour in between ditties, has a great voice and boy can he play the guitar!

Tonight, was long and loud and sweaty. A 2-set show with a 20-minute interval and 2 encores (see below for the actual songs played).  The enthusiastic audience had plenty of opportunity to sing along to many anthemic choruses e.g. I’m a Genius, When It All Comes Down, Evangeline to name a few. 

My personal highlights were ‘Up Here in the North of England’, ‘Understanding Jane’, ‘Clarabella’, ‘When it all Comes Down’ and ‘Merseybeast’ where he intriguingly changed the middle verse lyrics to something like ‘his genitals and anus went missing and pity the poor truck driver when his severed head landed where he was pissing’. 

The gig ended with Ian thanking the crowd for deciding to spend their hard-earned cash watching the band tonight. He seemed genuinely moved and he really connected with the audience! 

Fame and mega sales have managed to elude Ian but he like say Steve Harley are true journeymen of Rock.  They will always be in my “should have been bigger” list along with the likes of The Alarm, Spear of Destiny, Killing Joke. 

Set 1:

  • Fire Inside My Soul (Head Like a Rock 1994)
  • Perambulator (The Small Price of a Bicycle 1985)
  • That’s Why I Believe (Truth and Beauty 1993)

    Icicle Works - Set list Part 2
    They didn’t play it all!!
  • Seven Horses (The Small Price of a Bicycle 1985)
  • Starry Blue Eyed Wonder (Blind 1988)
  • High Time (Blind 1988)
  • Blind (Blind 1988)
  • Evangeline (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song 1987)
  • Shit Creek (Blind 1988)
  • Up Here in the North of England (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song 1987)

Set 2:

  • I’m a Genius (Merseybeast 1996)
  • What She Did to My Mind (Permanent Damage 1990)
  • How She Moves (Star Smile Strong 2017)
  • Merseybeast (Merseybeast 1996)
  • Still Got the Fever (Head Like a Rock 1994)
  • Understanding Jane (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song 1987)
  • You Stone My Soul (Merseybeast 1996)
  • When It All Comes Down (Blind 1988)


  • Clarabella (Come to the Window) – (Star Smile Strong 2017)
  • Hollow Horse (The Small Price of a Bicycle 1985)

Finally, once the lights were up, Ian and the band kindly popped to the small merchandising stall to chat and sign stuff.  Ian kindly signed my ticket stub and I so liked ‘Clarabella’ that I bought the CD which he also signed.  I had a little chat with him and he genuinely seems like a top bloke.The Icicle Works - 21 Oct 2017 Stub signed

Marko – 22 October 2017

Blancmange gig review [6 Oct 2017] – 229 The Venue, London

Ok you are all thinking what am I doing at a Blancmange gig!  Well guilty pleasures etc. I quite liked them in the 80’s.  When I found out they were on tour promoting their new LP (Unfurnished Rooms) I thought it worth £25 for the night out.  It appears that now only Neil Arthur carry’s the flag for these understated synthpop merchants – and carry’s it well he does!

The set was a good mix of old and new and Neil looked very handsome and dapper in his dark blue suit.  All three of the band looked like they were having a good time as were the very enthusiastic audience.  I’ve no idea what the capacity is but it looked fairly full to me so Blancmange do have a good following still – even if a few of them looked like they were on their last legs.

Neil has a penchant for walking to the front of the stage and staring lingeringly at the crowd with slightly scary demented eyes.  Well it certainly attracts your attention!  He also likes a bit of banter with the audience in-between songs and came across as a top bloke! I must admit I did chuckle to myself as Neil’s the only person I know who sings in a broad Lancashire accent!

The new songs were actually pretty good – I might well invest in the LP/CD/Download as the lyrics seemed interesting and the tunes held up well.  As you can imagine the old hit songs got the crowd singing and bopping along – especially at the end of Living on the Ceiling – see the video link below.

They started off understatedly with a lovely piano cover of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’. Then came the new songs (about a 3rd of the act) of which ‘Anna Dine’ and ‘We are Chemicals’ were the best in my opinion – to be fair each new song was greeted rapturously. Finally, the jacket came off for the aggressive ‘I Can’t Explain’, well it was bloody hot and sweaty in there.  Then came the well-known audience sing-alongs – ‘Living on the Ceiling, Blind Vision’ but only one encore ‘Don’t Tell Me’. Neil was obviously in a rush to get to the merchandising stand for signatures and photos – well you’ve got to upsell to make a living these days!

I really enjoyed the entire evening (approx. 1 hour 20mins) and the only slight downside was that they didn’t play one of my favourites ‘That’s Love That It Is’, plus the bar was shut!!  Can’t get a drink at 22:15 – I blame Brexit!

SETLIST (and links to Videos on my YouTube channel)

  1. The Day Before You Came(Mange Tout 1984)
  2. Unfurnished Rooms(Unfurnished Rooms 2017)
  3. We Are the Chemicals(Unfurnished Rooms 2017)
  4. Game Above My Head(Mange Tout 1984)
  5. Red Shift (Blame Thrower) (Commuter 23 2016)
  6. What’s the Time?(Unfurnished Rooms 2017)
  7. Last Night (I Dreamt I Had a Job) (Commuter 23 2016)
  8. Waves (Happy Families 1982)Blancmange-Unfurnished-Rooms
  9. Gratitude(Unfurnished Rooms 2017)
  10. Anna Dine (Unfurnished Rooms 2017)
  11. Running Thin(Happy Families 1982)
  12. I Can’t Explain(Happy Families 1982)
  13. Old Friends(Unfurnished Rooms 2017)
  14. Living on the Ceiling (Happy Families 1982)
  15. I’ve Seen the Word(Happy Families 1982)
  16. Feel Me(Happy Families 1982)
  17. Blind Vision(Mange Tout 1984)
  18. Don’t Tell Me(Mange Tout 198)

Before I forget the gig was opened by Curxes (a duo of singer and keyboard/guitarist) who were a bit Cocteau Twins with attitude. Alas, the sound mix for this was appalling so I’ve got no idea what the hell she was singing about, less even as to why the other half of the act was dressed as a bear. All I know is that they have an album ‘Gilded Cage’ out in a few weeks.

Perhaps I’m doing them a disservice but based on the current act I would not pay good money to watch them again. Perhaps that’s the reason for the bear outfit?

Marko – 8 Oct 2017