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)
- 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.
Get well soon Brian.
Marko – 25 October 2017