Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom
Placebo's spiky acerbic vitriol works superbly on record, where you can contain and control it, keeping it within confines you dictate and goading it with an off-button cattle prod when it gets out of hand. Live, like tonight, things are different. Live, Brian Molko's dainty little group place their heads down, their genitalia forward and attempt to bludgeon us to death with amped up jagged guitars and depth charge drums. For the most part, this works and when it truly connects - like on "Teenage Angst", "36 Degrees" or "Nancy Boy" - it is awesome; like being tied up in a black pvc bag and beaten with a metal bar until you lose consciousness (but in a pleasurable way...). However, there were times tonight ("Pristine Bruise", "Kitsch Object", a couple of slowies) when things didn't work quite so well, either being too relentless, too intense - or merely directionless. You get the impression that Placebo are sometimes trying a little too hard.
Image-wise, Placebo are certainly eye-catching. From Molko's shy and coy panda-eyed mincing, to Stefan's Lurch from the Adams Family menace, the band are visually arresting and interesting to watch. Additionally, two screens were mounted either side of the raised drum kit and during some songs (very) weird and slightly disturbing films played, which effectively underlined the songs' seedy and sleazy underbellies. However, like their songs, things did grate slightly after a while, and Molko's rock slut role wore thin quite a time before the end. He did however have quite a good line in put-down patter, cruelly admonishing two stage divers who jostled him whilst playing with an acid "I don't knock sailors' dicks out of your mouth when you're at work, so let me get on with mine". Miaow.
For all their gender-bending posturing and Warholesque attitudes to sex and drugs and rock and roll, Placebo are at heart a pretty traditional outfit, dressing their rock tunes up in leather and chains and flinging them out to be lapped up by an eager audience. Like Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson however, you get the impression that Placebo don't really mean it, and are simply playing at being perverse and debauched rock whores. If Molko and co ever really did find themselves strapped down, looking out eyeholes in a paper bag, you suspect the only button they'd be pressing is the one marked "panic". As their name suggests, Placebo are somewhat empty and false, but do succeed in making you feel something some of the time.
Not as vital as they'd like to think.
Review was Originally featured on the Alternative Music Magazine
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