“I know, you love the song but not the singer…”
There is a temptation when covering local music to just declare everything brilliant and be done with it. I mean, nobody wants to lose those sweet press passes after all. For me, this culminated in an overwhelmingly positive review for a decidedly average show from Sheffield band the Sherlocks and a feeling of soul destroying shame for having been such a sell out. After that abomination was published, I vowed to be more honest, as seen in this review of a bizarre day in the heart of Askern.
It is that spirit then, and not just plain grumpiness, that informs the start of this review. Let’s talk about all the things that were wrong with Placebo’s set before we get to the good stuff. First off, the band came out to a video celebrating their 20th year. This is all well and good except it had a backing track of ‘Every You Every Me’ which meant they didn’t actually play the song live during their set.
Everything from third album Black Market Music onward sounded thrilling but the limp performances of their earlier songs left an indelible stain on an otherwise brilliant night. While opener ‘Pure Morning’ sounded OK, we had a seven song wait for the band to play another song from their early career. ‘I Know’ is a blistering and visceral track on record but tonight it sounds turgid and uninspired with frontman Brian Molko constantly out of tune and disinterested. Even worse is a dire run through of a slowed down ’36 Degrees’. It is genuinely baffling that the band could take such an exciting song and turn it into this plodding and tedious mess and even crowd favourite ‘Nancy Boy’ feels rushed and aloof. Aside from a forgettable trudge through ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ that’s it for the first two albums.
Admittedly, I feel more affronted by this than I probably should. I lost interest in Placebo somewhere around the time of Sleeping With Ghosts and that is hardly the bands fault. That doesn’t excuse such a lazy butchering of their own back catalogue however. If they can’t be arsed to play those songs properly it would be better for them to drop them from the set completely.
With that out of the way, what of the rest of the night? The opening salvo of ‘Loud Like Love’ and ‘Jesus’ Son’ acts as a blistering template for the rest of the night with the band attacking their instruments to provide a more fleshed out live sound.
‘Special Needs’ takes a gawky song title and turns it into something beautiful before an incendiary rendition of set highlight ‘Twenty Years’. The latter is an example of just how impressive a live spectacle the band can provide when they put their mind to it.
Brian Molko and co bring out all the hits to end the first part of the evening with ‘Special K’ receiving possibly the biggest crowd response of the night before the unmistakable opening riff from ‘The Bitter End’ pierces the Doncaster air.
The band end their set with a show stopping performance of their beloved cover of the Kate Bush classic ‘Running up that Hill’. It’s weird that Placebo are such an excellent covers band when they have so little respect for their own back catalogue…
Overall, Placebo just about did enough to justify the ticket price but if the back slappery and self congratulation of local music is to be condemned, then it must also be censored in the mainstream. This was a good performance but one plagued with poor decision making and a lack of effort.
This article was written for Doncopolitan magazine: