Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Brian Molko - does a lot of good work for charity

Last night, we went to see Placebo at the Brixton Academy. Placebo are much maligned in the music press in England, mainly because Brian Molko was in a bad mood once during an interview. The savage way in which the NME turned on him was alarming, like a pack of school bullies jumping on the weird kid at school, chanting childish insults. Last night, the infamous Molko bald patch, the subject of most of the NME's taunts, was nowhere in sight and the sell-out crowd didn't give a damn anyway. 'You've come to see a rock show,' yelled Brian. We had. But first, we had to stand through The Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster. The Disaster, as I've fondly come to think of them, lived up to their name. They're stuck in the eighties. They could fit their talent in a matchbox. And they had most of us making a beeline for the bar. They sound a bit like a goth band fronted by Vic Reeves' club singer, with some odd rockabilly bits thrown in. They played lots of songs that sounded exactly like one another followed by their big ballad. We knew it was their big ballad not because it sounded any different but because some nice fairy lights lit up around one of the amps. Pretty.

The Disaster

The first time I saw Placebo play live, the boy standing next to me threw up all over his shoes. Back then, during the 'Without You I'm Nothing' tour, Placebo had great songs and played loud enough to make people vomit spontaneously, but Brian often seemed to be rooted to the spot. He's rooted no more. Now he bounds around the stage, looking as if he's fighting off some pesky invisible mosquitoes, dances on the amps and strikes the poses of a miniature rock god. It's fantastic to see. They start with 'Bulletproof Cupid', the blistering instrumental opener from new album 'Sleeping With Ghosts', then rip their way through their blazing back catalogue, mixing it with more songs from '...Ghosts'. 'Every Me Every You', 'The Bitter End', 'Black Eyed', the dance-tastic 'English Summer Rain' - classic songs from the more androgynous end of Britrock. Actually, Placebo have never really fitted in to the British rock scene, which may be why the press can't stand them, with their international upbringings and weird looks. Did I say weird looks? I'll say it again. Brian is dwarfed by bassist Stefan, who is playing tonight against doctor's orders. I imagine he does a lot of things against doctor's orders. Six-foot-god-knows-what with a mohawk that makes him look even taller, silhouetted against the backdrop he looked like he'd beamed down from some Planet of the Weird and Willowy Apes.

Another break from Placebo's past was that Brian kept stopping to make little speeches. The War. George Bush. Nina Simone, to whom he dedicated 'Centrefolds' - I'm sure she'd be very bemused: 'Who is this strange little man?' The longest speech was about The Samaritans, who the band had invited to collect money at the gig. Brian had some important figures to tell us about, but he couldn't find them. Finally, we were informed that two teenagers commit suicide every day in the UK. I hope this isn't just an attempt to jump on the bandwagon driven by socially aware bands like Coldplay. It seemed heartfelt.

But like I said, this was a rock show, and as the gig neared its climax, new single 'This Picture' booked its place as a future favourite and an incendiary 'Special K' showed that Brian had had his Weetabix. Encore time: 'Taste in Men' sounded much better than it ever did on record, 'Pure Morning' sounded just as good as it did on record, and they played a funked-up version of 'Teenage Angst'. There's always been a dance element to their music, you know. They finished with a magnificent version of the Pixies' 'Where is my Mind?', 'a song we didn't write but wish we had.'

And now for something completely different. As I mentioned previously, Butter is meant to be going to Toronto on Sunday to train for her new job. The British Foreign Office are telling people to only go to Toronto if they have essential business'. It's dilemma time.