Placebo

support Toy
author AP date 30/11/13 venue Falconer Salen, Frederiksberg, DEN

Despite counting myself a devout fan of the band since stumbling across "Sleeping With Ghosts" ten years ago, opportunities to watch Placebo live have somehow managed to elude me thus far (which is baffling, considering the band has played in Denmark numerous times since, including at Roskilde Festival during one of the years that I was in attendance). Things have been rather quiet for the trio for the past 4 years, and I must confess they'd vanished off my playlists after 2009's "Battle for the Sun". But then, rather out of the blue, Placebo unleashed their seventh studio album upon us this year, and in conjunction with that, decided to hit the road again - a tour, which thankfully included a stop in Copenhagen, providing me with a long due chance to watch them live at last.

Photos courtesy of Jill Weitmann Decome

Toy

First, however, a support band needs to be endured, in the form of London, England born Toy, who describe themselves as an amalgam of indie and psychedelic rock and have all the aesthetics of people who spend their freetime in Shoreditch. In truth, whilst bits of psychedelic are certainly audible in the mix, Toy are best described as an archetypical British indie band, with a contrived style and sound, and an obnoxious look of self-satisfaction at how immeasurably cool they fancy themselves to be. The music consists primarily of repetitive guitar and bass lines, and although opener "Left Myself Behind" has a certain degree of pull by virtue of a good, energetic drive, vocalist/guitarist Tom Dougall's singing is so bland - the kind of subdued, indifferent voice with neither highs nor lows that is so symptomatic of contemporary, anonymous British hipster rock - and the collective's presence on stage so static and disinterested (with the exception of the somewhat livelier drummer, the four remaining members are much too comfortably standing in sullen stillness with their mid-length haircuts obscuring their faces), that Toy's set quickly becomes one of those you're at pains to find much to say about, positive or negative. In the band's merit, it must be confessed that they've managed to stitch together at least a vaguely compelling light show, and when the psychedelic touches do eventually manifest themselves through lengthy, droning instrumental jams, so, too, do the highlights of their performance tonight emerge.

6

Placebo

The first notion to impress itself upon me once Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal and Steve Forrest arrive on stage to perform "B3" before a now-packed venue, is that there is considerably more bombast to the trio live vis-à-vis on record. Undoubtedly the expansion of the line-up to include the three session musicians Bill Lloyd (bass guitar, keyboards & piano), Fiona Brice (violin, tambourine, theremin, keyboards & backing vocals) and Nick Gavrilovic (guitar, lap steel guitar, keyboards & backing vocals) plays a significant role in the matter, but be that as it may, it is a welcome touch to a band so renowned for their muted, introverted expression. More good news arrive with the realisation that in stark contrast with the tour-worn Queens of the Stone Age the day before, Placebo look to be in a dazzling mood, and spare no energy in dispensing their enthusiasm. The first two songs, completed by "For What It's Worth", sound magnificently heavy, and are delivered with awesome energy, riling up what appears initially to be a rather anxious audience (it's been a while, who can blame them for not trusting whole-heartedly in Placebo's ability to still deliver?).

Add to all this a beautiful production of lights dancing in harmony with a large display featuring all manner of colourful, abstract imagery, and it becomes difficult to find anything to really dislike about the band's performance tonight. Having just raved about the added oomph, it must also be mentioned that the three additional musicians breathe new life into slower songs and ballads like "Twenty Years Ago" and "A Million Little Pieces", both of which derive immense benefit from Brice's violin and Gavrilovic's third guitar in particular and emerge as clear highlights. In the case of the second song specifically, the stage production is also deployed to full effect, with all except Molko and Olsdal appearing as mere silhouettes before dim blue visuals. That Placebo sound so different live does have a more unfortunate effect at times, too, as especially the alternative takes on the classic "Every You Every Me" and "Meds" are regrettably not as compelling as the original versions (though the refurbished "Space Monkey" sounds even more brooding in this format, the increased low end rumble giving it an almost dark noise rock feel).

But no matter, the evening proceeds in splendid fashion, and my eyes, at least, remain firmly glued to the proceedings on stage (whereas it is my usual custom to venture to the bar at least once during a headlining set), and it is a pleasure to see so many of the band's fans receiving the seven new songs with almost as much enthusiasm as the classics ("Too Many Friends", nigh cringe-worthy on record, is much more functional in the live settings, it turns out, and the cheeky use of Facebook's colour scheme in the lighting during its execution is a great idea). It all culminates in the brilliant closing trio "Song to Say Goodbye", "Special K" and "The Bitter End", all of which receive rapturous applause, before a surprisingly excellent cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" has them singing along all over again in an encore which also includes "Teenage Angst", "Post Blue" and the much loved "Infra-red". Having come here with next to no expectations, Placebo manage nearly to swoop me off my feet, and at the very least, tonight is a strong reminder that the band are still very much in the game.

Setlist:

  • B3
  • For What It's Worth
  • Loud Like Love
  • Twenty Years
  • Every You Every Me
  • Too Many Friends
  • Scene of the Crime
  • A Million Little Pieces
  • Speak in Tongues
  • Rob the Bank
  • Purify
  • Space Monkey
  • Blind
  • Exit Wounds
  • Meds
  • Song to Say Goodbye
  • Special K
  • The Bitter End

--Encore--

  • Teenage Angst
  • Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)
  • Post Blue
  • Infra-red

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