There has been a lot of international excitement with Placebo’s “A Place for Us to Dream - 20 Years of Placebo” tour. There was dismay when Placebo cancelled and didn’t reschedule the Perth leg of this tour in September. Many devoted Australian fans flew out to London just to see Placebo perform this last leg of the tour at the Brixton Academy. The presently mute Big Ben didn’t get a look in.
Before Placebo took to the stage, the lights went down, the screen then appeared, showing clips of old Placebo footage. One couldn’t help but reflect on the ways how bands reveal themselves to fans has changed. When Placebo formed, there was no social media and the Melody Maker still existed. In 1996, Bassist Stefan Olsdal revealed his sexuality to this magazine. Pure Morning opened the set. Hearing this song live would always be like manna from heaven, but something literally didn’t sound right. Brian Molko failed to peak vocally. Brian would announce that he had lost his voice two weeks earlier and his voice had still not fully recovered. Instead of pleading for pity, Brian took command and told fans to put away their “f****** distracting” mobile phones and their cameras and take everyone back to the nineties when there were no smartphones and promised everyone a “mother f***** kick ass show”.
For much of the first half of the set, Placebo played their mellower and less up-tempo songs from their back catalogue. Although there was seldom a mosh pit (partly owing to ageing fans), Brixton was still emotionally captivated. There was a lot of emotion when Placebo played “(their) most beloved and cherished record to date”: Without You I’m Nothing. This collaboration with the late Brixton born David Bowie was “very misunderstood. It is not a love song… It is about co-dependence, feeling like you don’t have an identity without somebody else.”
The more up-tempo songs from the back catalogue would then proceed. There was excellent audience participation with Special K with out of key chanting of “ba ba, ba ba, ba,ba, ba”. Race for Rats was also able to galvanise similar enthusiasm. This up-tempo rush was ground to a halt with Song to Say Goodbye.
Played live amidst the backdrop of the original eight-minute video; Placebo were able to tell their truth, keeping fans emotions running amok. Following the shows only encore, Placebo would play Nancy Boy, a glorious live anthem; however, Molko again struggled vocally to make the most of Nancy Boy’s potential. Placebo has stated that they were unlikely to play either Pure Morning or Nancy Boy again live. It would be a shame if the last time these two songs were played; they didn’t reach their full live potential. If not for the fans, play them for David Bowie, who declared Nancy Boy, “a terrific song for a bunch of chaps to sing”.
This greatest hits tour was not Placebo saying goodbye, with album number eight, Career Suicide in production and with fans buying up Brian’s used ear plugs (as well as more sophisticated memorabilia such as a CD single signed by David Bowie) like hot cakes; Placebo will never be “easily forgettable”.