Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ian Dunn


Once upon a time there was a band – quirky by look and quirky by nature and named after a ‘simulated or medically ineffectual treatment for disease.’ Well this particular treatment has indeed had the desired effect – they’ve sold around 11 million albums in their near 20 year career. And back in Brum tonight at the start of a two year twentieth anniversary retrospective – enjoy the androgynous independence that is Placebo.


As we take to the venue, a bag search reveals contraband not acceptable to take into the venue. Somewhat surprised by this we waffle down said contraband chocolate bar and make our way in. The 02 Academy is full tonight, heaving with fans looking forward to the gig – overfull one could definitely say. A sign greats us as we enter the venue – for the performing artists and audience benefit please refrain from filming, taking pictures with professional cameras and using flash on said devices. Okay. “Please engage with and enjoy the moment, it is fleeting and you will never get it back. Thanks very much. Placebo.”  I can say that the photographers in the pit tonight do have permissions to be there from the main act. But not all the audience has read said signs, as the moment the band appear on the stage, up go the mobile devices…



Anyway, back to the first act up on stage – support band Mirror Trap. Sounding like the bastard off-spring of Placebo, with Biffy chucked in for good measure, this six piece rock down in true indie style encased in clouds of dry ice, lit in the appropriate colour effect for the song. They be an alternative indie rock band from Scotland who’ve released a couple of albums and have toured with Placebo before. With a musical style suiting tonight’s crowd they go down pretty well and are likely to be ones to watch out for in the future.


And now for the break, the interlude between bands. It’s packed, getting cosier by the second and a more than a tad warm. Phew. And that’s before the  main guys take to the stage. About 9.10pm dry ice takes over the stage, the houselights drop and it’s the intro – ‘Pure Morning’ megamix – ‘Pure Morning vs Svefn-g-englar.’ To a big cheer the boys take to the stage. Placebo 2015 are Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal, Steve Forrest took an amicable exit door a month ago to pursue his musical career and has been replaced with new drummer and sideman Matt Lunn.


First track ‘B3’ starts as the band mean to go on – rocking out, back to basics with just the rock band (no additions like violinists in tow), Molko’s unique vocals purring round the lyrics. Before cranking into ‘For What It’s Worth’ – the two main protagonists posing on the stage, akin in black, Molko’s black locks gleamy and shiny – he’s clearly been using L’Oreal. He must be worth it. “Good to see you..” declares Molko as they crank into the next track, hit ‘For What It’s Worth’. Recent album ‘Loud Like Love’ makes a strong presentation tonight – even though it’s well over 12 months old – but the odd older hit is thrown in for good measure. The sound guy has clearly decided that LOUD is indeed best, as the volume is cranked up in a venue that can be notoriously rubbish on sound, especially when the volume is ramped up to the hilt. Another hit ‘Every You Every Me’ – we sing, it’s loud. And warmer and stuffier by the second – clearly the air con is broken or someone has forgotten where the button is to switch it on is…

The tracks best performed tonight are the newbies and even better, when there is less volume and more of Molko’s purring vocals – ‘A Million Little Pieces’ is far cleaner and clear, followed by ‘Rob the Bank’ and we’re back to loud, while Olsdal. get’s the crowd a-clapping. Molko seems on reasonable form – certainly in live performing rock god guise – but clearly has a thing about cameras. A blonde lass is taking pictures with a flash – he’s not impressed “Tell her to stop it – she’s really pissing me off. Stealing my soul man…”


‘Exit Wounds’ is more atmospheric and subtle; a palpable sigh from the crowd as they recognise ‘Meds’; ‘Special K’ gets the crowd bopping away in Placebo World. The set complete with ‘Bitter End’; vocals kinda inversed – the high notes becoming low notes. And a couple near me snog slowly throughout the entire song.

Main set over, there’s music coming from the speakers, which confuses a tad, the houselights still down, they’re clearly coming back, however music usually indicates gig is over. But the lighting guy is right, Placebo – they do return for a four song encore, which includes a smattering of Kate Bush and the Placebo take on ‘Running Up That Hill (Make a Deal with God).’


Are Placebo still relevant? Well the boy Molko, who gave us ‘Nancy Boy’ and ‘Bruise Pristine’ (both missing from tonight’s setlist) is all growed up, he’s now 42 and every band has no choice but to do so. Time don’t stand still for no man or rock god. They clearly rock out baby and the fans tonight had a blast. Placebo are celebrating. They have just released their entire back catalogue  worldwide and this is just the start. From now through 2016 there will be a journey of retrospective activity leading into their twentieth anniversary. So if they be your thang – you will have more than ample opportunity to see them they deliver their retrospective in true Placebo glory.

Intro – Pure Morning v Svefn-g-englar
For What It’s Worth
Loud Like Love
Every You Every Me
Scene of the Crime
A Million Little Pieces
Rob the Bank
Special Needs
Too Many Friends
Space Monkey
Exit Wounds
I Know
Song to Say Goodbye
Special K
The Bitter End

Begin the End
Running Up That Hill (Make a Deal with God)
Post Blue
Infra Red

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