Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Live Review: Placebo at 02 Brixton Academy, 28 September 2010

Some words I did on the Placebo show at 02 Brixton Academy on 28 September 2010 for

It’s hard to believe that Placebo first surfaced back in 1995, some fifteen years ago. Back then, even as the young whippersnapper that I was, their punky, angst-ridden slant on the alternative-rock scene grabbed me immediately. I should have been 16 and into marijuana and perfectly executed misery; I was 9 and interested only in music which sang in my ears. I remained a committed disciple from Placebo, their striking debut, through the more sombre Without You I’m Nothing and production-heavy (and occasionally awful) Black Market Music. However, just as I approached my supposed years of ‘teenage angst’, shifting musical allegiances and a slightly protracted period of inertia from the band saw my interest wane, singles aside.

Indeed, Placebo had so withdrawn from my radar that I’m immediately taken aback with the sea of baying fans who line the Brixton Academy floor man-for-man awaiting the arrival of their treasured heroes. A band I had always seen as a scratchy, artsy aural pursuit are suddenly transformed into double-dose – the band also played the Monday evening – Brixton headliners, with an authoritative aura of those not crashing a party, but anointed as the guests of honour

For a band who have always flirted with the flamboyant decadence of androgyny and knowing sexual ambiguity, tonight they don’t disappoint. Latest drummer Steve Forrest is an indie-boy’s Tommy Lee, his bare body covered to the inch by an array of tattoos, and assaulting the drums with bone-shaking vigour. Meanwhile, imposing bassist Stefan Olsdal dazzles in an iridescent silver suit, whilst the wafer-thin Brian Molko’s babyface and skin-tight jeans belie 15 years of hard toil on the road. It’s glamorous without being glam; showy without showing too much.

Pleasingly, the music also delivers. Launching straight into early standout single ‘Nancy Boy’, the band rifle through a back catalogue which, whilst weighted with a number of tracks from last year’s Battle For The Sun, plucks hit after hit from each of their records. ‘Ashtray Heart’ and ‘Battle For The Sun’ deserve their warm reception, whilst ‘Every You Every Me’ predictably sends the crowd into raptures. All the while, background visuals maintain the bands air of tongue-in-cheek subversion, depicting everything from a hindu dancer to sand-encrusted lovers. It might seem inane, even deliberately insincere, but it works.

Some might point to this along with a bizarre, gothic-themed mime show which precedes the encore as an example of a band who are complicit in sending up their own style without necessarily allowing their audience to laugh at the joke. However, as the last strains of an extended ‘Taste In Men’ flood the venue, few care for any more than the music which sings in their ears.

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