Placebo launched their ’20 Years of Placebo’ World Tour earlier this year, and they are jetting around the world for the biggest birthday party of their career. At their concert in Nottingham on the December 6, Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal played a 25-song set list that did not lead to disappointment.
In a career lasting the span of my entire lifetime, they have released seven albums, six EPs and 31 singles, three of which landed spots in the top five in the UK charts. It is remarkable that a chance meeting at a London tube station back in 1992 would eventually lead to the sales of over 11 million records and seven top 20 albums, plus a world tour simply celebrating their platinum anniversary.
Promised to be a tour for the fans, ’20 Years’ would feature songs that the band had sworn never to play again. Opening with ‘Pure Morning,’ the gig was a nostalgic revival of all the old classics including ‘Special Needs,’ ‘Protect Me,’ ’Too Many Friends,’ ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ and ‘Soulmates.’ Finishing their main set with the highly anticipated track ’The Bitter End,’ fans were left clamouring for more. The encore was an exuberant flashback to their self-titled debut album, released exactly 20 years ago in 1996, with a performance of ‘Nancy Boy.’ It was followed by a 10-year leap forward to ‘Infra-red,’ from their 2006 album Meds. Their cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)’ closed the show in a rip-roaring, utterly memorable explosion of reminiscence.
Front-man Brian Molko was cool and collected, unchanged over the 20-years of music making, complete with purple eyeshadow and jet black hair. His audience became ‘ladies and gentlemen, and those who find yourselves somewhere in between,’ a poignant reminder that Placebo are, as Molko once said, ‘a band for outsiders, by outsiders.’ Olsdal’s defiant stance as he lifted a bass guitar decorated in the colours of the LGBT flag, reminded us that music and artistry really have no boundaries. Those pushed outside of the socially acceptable bubble can find comfort within the gritty melodies and androgynous images of Molko and Olsdal.
A 20-year celebration tour is all well and good, when you have the success of Placebo. However, they showed humility and respect in their short tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, playing his song ‘Who By Fire’ accompanied with photos of the great musician. It shows that these two guys who have paved the way in alternative rock and the idea of the androgynous individual, still have a sense of awe for those who came before them.