Placebo at Brixton AcademyCultureMusicLive music
“Hello Brixton ACADEMY!” shrieks high-pitched frontman Brian Molko at the closing show of their 2013 tour. “I used to come here when I was at college to see all my favourite bands: Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey…”. 20 years after graduating from Goldsmiths College and meeting dynamic guitarist Stefan Olsdal by chance at South Kensington tube station, Molko has carved out a dizzyingly successful career. Seven studio albums that explore themes of androgyny, drug abuse and classroom misery have earned this melodramatic post-punk ensemble international recognition.
Although Placebo enter with enthusiasm, For What It’s Worth (from the 2009 album Battle for the Sun) is tinny and uninteresting. The melodic titular track from new album Loud Like Love seems to suggest that Molko, now a father and having celebrated his 40th birthday last year, is finally calming down. It’s a pretty track, offset with stunning visuals of sunsets and clouds. The soul-searching chorus refrain allows Molko to project his distinctive screeching vocals.
Every Me and Every You from the 1998 album Without You I’m Nothing is a nostalgic belter, which gets even the static upper-circle crowd passionate. It’s followed by a few tracks from the weaker 2006 album Meds, but the energy escalates with the song of the same name. Drummer Steve Forrest, flawless as ever, tears off his shirt for the second chorus of this track and gives it his famous energy – honed and tattooed, he’s a whirlwind spectacle.
Hysteria mounts as Teenage Angst is announced, that whinging ode to adolescent hopelessness. But, disappointingly, Placebo don’t execute it with a huge amount of feeling. Perhaps they’re bored with this downbeat oldie. They are most explosive and experimental with tracks like Nancy Boy, the 1996 homage to gender bending. These early tracks feel fresher and more authentic, perhaps because the fast, furious band members really lived the experiences they are recounting with all-exposing honesty. Now, new tracks like Rob the Bank are failed attempts to return to the same anarchy, which fall flat.
But a cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up that Hill is stunning – more macabre than the original but equally as shrill. There is a touching closeness between the band members as they bid the audience adieu, hand in hand. The new material from the mellower and more mature Placebo does lack some of the original aggression, but musically it’s sound. No matter how nostalgic spectators are for Placebo’s 1990s heyday, it’s pleasing to see the band so enthralled by their new material, which can still generate enough energy to warm Brixton Academy’s cavernous arena.
Photos: Erol Birsen
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Watch the video for Loud Like Love here: