Placebo - 08/07/2017 - Liege "Ardentes" festival

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Sign of the times


Pre-gig thoughts


Placebo have always been true to their fan base who, in return, showed them undeflected loyalty for two decades. And yet, the door is open for anyone who’s willing to step into their giant "birthday party".There’s something wonderful about this band live. Is it Brian’s outstanding voice or the fact that they’re enjoying being on stage so much ? I don’t know but I’m really thrilled. With the promise of playing old songs they don’t normally play live, this show holds the potential to be stunning and original.


Allow me to digress a bit though… I hear more and more bands are complaining about the fact that people are « not really there », filming or taking pictures instead of enjoying their gig. In the past, the crowd was dedicated to living in the moment. These days, it’s hard to keep people focused for more than two minutes. Plus, everybody wants to be a part of it : taking selfies, recording, commenting (gosh, I hate it when people talk during songs). Gigs are not about the bands anymore, gigs are about us. We act like we’re the star of it : «I was there !!! ». Well, who cares…


Tonight, Placebo is the star.


Post-gig thoughts


At the festival, I came across some guy who liked my t-shirt and so we talked. He said he was a regular and he saw Placebo here a few years ago. He told me not to expect anything special because the band does it like a job, with no passion or interaction... "They're crap", he said.


Well, no Sir.


It's true they keep it minimal (not much talking between the songs) and on schedule (one expected encore and then, goodbye).


But what an audiovisual blast!





 GIG REVIEW BY  [sic] Magazine 80c83277a55621f726b29df171778ae6v.jpg80c83277a55621f726b29df171778ae6v.jpg80c83277a55621f726b29df171778ae6v.jpg


Placebo arrive at Les Ardentes Festival as part of their ‘20 Years Of…’ tour. That’s quite an accomplishment. For an alternative rock act to carve out a career spanning two decades is testament to their individuality, not to mention a canny knack for a killer tune.  For the last couple of years the band has focused on retrospective material, gigging to promote their A Place for Us to Dream compilation. Tonight’s set reflects that with a heavy emphasis on the ‘greatest hits’ aspect. Nothing unusual there for a Festival but not always the case for a headlining act.


They take the stage in ascending order to allow mainstays Stefan Olsdal and Brian Molko their respective ovations. ‘Pure Morning’ is the opening song with its grinding guitars sounding like the turning of enormous gears. A massive hit worldwide and crowd-pleaser, ‘Pure Morning’ makes for a safe bet to kick start your show. They follow up with a series of more ‘modern’ songs.’ Loud Like Love’, the title track of the last studio album gives way to ‘Jesus Son’ the newly recorded single to promote A Place For Us To Dream. They flip back to the ‘Soulmates Never Die’ version of ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’ before ripping into a startling rendition of ‘Special Needs’ It’s a good start, a nice mixture of classic and contemporary Placebo.


Lighting and visual effects add a whole other dimension. The stage backdrop consists of three, (sometimes four) video feeds blending footage from this evenings performance with old video imagery. It’s well filmed and extremely well edited allowing the crowd further back to appreciate some of the stagecraft on display. Surprisingly this is more down to Olsdal than Molko. The Stefan Olsdal that you see in the music videos is basically what you get live but the same cannot really be said of Molko. Our frontman had already downplayed his entrance and he continued tonight’s set with dedicated professionalism. We got polite ‘thank you’s from Molko but not much else. When the cameras caught him he seemed to be in an internalized state somewhere between focused and haunted. Tonights rock posturing came more from the Swede who relishes wringing his slender, muscular frame into all manner of classic poses.  





After the strong opening there then followed a slight lull. ‘Too many Friends’ is fine in a live setting but ‘Twenty Years’ and ‘Exit Wounds’ are questionable choices to my mind. ‘Twenty Years’ has no justification for inclusion in a set like this, save for the ‘20 years of…’ angle. Actually the song was written for inclusion on the Once More With Feeling singles compilation way back in 2004 so its connection to ‘20 Years of Placebo’ is tenuous to say the least.’ Exit Wounds’ remains a fine song in itself. I just feel as though the cluster of tracks from the Loud Like Love era had a few of the more casual Placebo fans aching for something that they knew. To be fair, whatever songs Placebo chose to play, there would have to be something else left out. Tonight’s ‘miss list’ is an impressive one though.  ‘Every Me Every You’, ‘Come Home’, Taste In Men, ‘This Picture’ and ‘Burger Queen’ were all conspicuous by their absence. It didn’t really matter. The set was highly impressive anyway.


To my mind, Placebo fall into that category of band who don’t really change a great deal. Nor need to. No reinvention of the wheel from the London based act. Why should they? They have a formula that works. If it ain't broke …. There was a moment early on in their career where I thought “I don’t really need to collect any more Placebo albums”. I felt that the two I already owned were enough.  Wrong! The band released the deliriously good ‘Slave To The Wage’ and I was duly obligated to pick up the terrific Black Market Music. Without You I’m Nothing probably remains the bands high water mark but Black Market Music makes for a darkly, seductive follow-up. Surely I could stop there?  Not a bit of it. ‘The Bitter End’ basically marched me back to the record store to pick up fourth album Sleeping With GhostsAnd so it continued. ‘Song To Say Goodbye’, from Meds is an absolute ‘must have’ and arguably one of their greatest ever songs. A distinct pattern emerged.


Just when I thought I was outthey pull me back in


Placebo’s recording career may have slowed somewhat in their second decade (only one album since 2009’s Battle For The Sun) but the band has continued to tour and to put in Festival performances like todays. Highlights for me included the aforementioned ‘Slave To The Wage’, ‘Song To Say Goodbye’ and ‘Special Needs’. There was extra poignancy on ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ which was clearly dedicated to David Bowie.



“I seem to lose the power of speech,
You're slipping slowly from my reach.
You grow me like an evergreen,
You've never seen the lonely me at all



Take the plan, spin it sideways.

Without you, I'm nothing.
Without you, I'm nothing at all.”


The lyrics, Molko’s heartfelt performance together with back projections of images of Brian and David laughing together made for an emotive experience.


The rest of the evening went in the blink of an eye. Suddenly the band were wrapping up ‘Infra Red’ and taking their curtain call. It felt too fast but it is also the sign of a great show where the songs were the real stars. They returned for their notorious version of ‘Running Up That Hill’ but no more than that. Off they were gone.




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© 2017    

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