Placebo at The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 25th February 2015
Brian Molko has aged well, it must be said. The voice, hair and pallor are all as they were when Placebo first emerged onto a hesitant indie scene some 20 years ago. In fact, tonight is the opening night of their 20th Anniversary Tour – a title which would suggest a greatest hits set. The reality was that the setlist deviated very little from that which Placebo had been deploying during their Loud Like Love Tour, which only wrapped last November. That’s not to say it was disappointing, but it almost feels like a continuation of the previous tour given the very short gap between them and the similarity in setlist.
As they explode onto the stage of a sold-out Olympia with B3, the band silhouetted against shimmering blue lights, it makes you wonder why more bands don’t put on more of a show in the Olympia (besides obvious budgetary constraints). Granted, Placebo are a band with a surefire back catalogue and a loyal fan base that have grown up alongside them, and who are willing to shell out (tickets were €50), but what you got in return was a stage and light show worthy of far bigger venues. Whereas many acts pare back their shows for the Olympia, perhaps in keeping with the theatre’s history and atmosphere, Placebo decided to turn everything up to 11.
Loud Like Love, one of the standout tracks from the 2013 album of the same name, sounds at its best in this context. The barely recognisable intro to Every You Every Me has the crowd momentarily in limbo, until all hell breaks loose as recognition takes hold, and in case there was any doubt as to what Scene Of The Crime is about, Molko tells us that “in every relationship there comes a time when the first transgression is committed”.
In keeping with the “mini-stadium show” aesthetic, Placebo’s number of touring members has increased over the years. There are no fewer than six on the stage throughout the show, often with three guitars buzz-sawing away simultaneously. Original members Molko and Stefan Olsdal (guitar/bass) are present and correct and they are joined by brand new drummer Matt Lunn, who takes his seat behind the skins for the first time for this show, taking over from Steve Forrest who left at the end of last year.
Before Purify, Molko claims there is a sticky substance on his mic, which is like a new kind of blow job experience for him, “and there aren’t many things that I haven’t tried”, he adds. There isn’t a person in the Olympia who doesn’t believe that statement. When the next song is introduced with “we haven’t played this song in four years”, there is a huge roar of anticipation for what turns out to be Special Needs from 2003’s ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’. It’s a beautiful rendition, and the whole venue is absorbed in it. This is followed by the anthemic Too Many Friends, which could just have easily been a Biffy Clyro song, and the industrial crunch of Space Monkey. All the while Molko and Olsdal swagger about the stage. It’s hard to take your eyes off them.
The sing-a-long of Special K and the angst-ridden The Bitter End see the band off stage. After a relatively long interval they come back for the encore to huge anticipation. Some big numbers have not been heard yet and this is the 20th Anniversary Tour after all. All of which makes it fairly anticlimactic when they ease into Begin The End. Their cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill follows, but whereas the album version remains loyal to the original, here they rock out as they build towards a close. They close out with Infra-Red, another anthemic mid-career number. Perhaps not quite the climax the crowd were hoping for, but it was hard to begrudge them such an imperious performance because a couple of fan-favourites were omitted.
“We’ll be back, and when we come back we’ll find you”, says Molko as he heads off. We won’t be hard to find, Brian. We’ll be right here, waiting.