I should have written about this ages ago, but things happen and get in the way and time passes and *insert plausible excuse here*.
Anyway, this story starts back in May, when tickets went on sale for Placebo’s Loud Like Love tour. I had to get in quick or miss the chance to go, so it was a relief when the band added another night to the tour. Monday the 16th was initially the last night, but demand was such that they booked the Academy for the 17th, as well, and I managed to get there just in time.
So, after more than six months of waiting, the night finally arrived. It clashed with that week’s Plot Bunnies meeting, so I got our lovely webmaster to run the meeting, that night. After standing outside in the rain for a while, we were finally let in, and I’d got to Brixton in such good time that I managed to find a decent place to stand. For someone who’s not very tall, that’s an issue when seats are not involved in the proceedings, and, true to form, even though I managed to find a spot behind the mixing deck, a tall person, one of the O2 “privilege” people (grr), was able to stand inside the deck area itself, and managed to plonk himself right in front of me. Hmph.
I got talking to Ray the security guard, who gave me a tip for next time I’m at the Academy – the best place to stand, where no one can stand and block the view. I’ll remember that. Thanks, Ray.
Anyway, it pains me rather to comment on the support. Toy started off with a track that I thought had a very long intro, but which was in fact the whole thing. I stood there wondering when the song was going to kick in, but then it finished. They had played the same bar over and over again, and I was left feeling bewildered and more than a little short-changed. After all, Placebo were obviously happy to have these guys opening for them on the tour, so it was disappointing for me, personally, to think they were crap. Sorry, boys, but my verdict was: All guitars, no substance. And the vocalist couldn’t sing to save his life, either. That’s forgivable if you can put a song across, but I’ve seen ants with more personality.
Finally, mercifully, the set came to an end. After the last song was introduced, I thought, I bet this one sounds the same as all the rest… Sure enough…
I got talking to a couple called Claire and Mick. One thing Claire and I had in common was a lack of height, and I tried to make sure not to obscure Claire’s view once Placebo came on.
Now, here’s the good bit. The band came on almost bang on time, a couple of minutes after 9. Starting with “B3”, they rocked the joint. Rather than going through the ins and outs of every song, I’ve included the set list below for your delectation (or envy, whichever is more appropriate), and I will just tell you that the boys were in fine fettle. From my position behind the mixing deck, it was kind of awkward to take decent photos with my phone, but I managed to take almost a hundred, anyway. Some are decent, some are crap, all of them too far away from the stage. At this point, I should mention that I was actually there early enough even to secure myself a spot at the front, and I did experiment with this before the show started. But I couldn’t shake the memory of the last time I had seen Placebo, at the O2 Arena in Greenwich four years previously, when I had got so squashed that I couldn’t breathe and had to be taken over the barrier and into the back room, where someone gave me water and made me rest for a few minutes, leading me to miss the end of one song and the beginning of another one. I wasn’t willing for that to happen again, but as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Ray (also known as Granddad) had told me earlier that the night before was fine, the fans were good (my experience of Placebo fans is that they’re fucking nuts), but I didn’t want to take the risk. So my photos and my view were compromised.
However, the band played song after song after song, eventually playing 22, spanning their career (the oldest one being an updated version of “Teenage Angst” from the first, eponymous album, released in 1996). I went mental when they played “Scene of the Crime”, as it’s my favourite from the latest album, “Loud Like Love”, though I knew they wouldn’t play the other one I go nuts over, “Hold On To Me”.
When they played “Exit Wounds”, I found myself thinking that this was probably the song I would tell someone to listen to if they wanted to know what Placebo sounded like, as it has all the hallmarks of a Placebo song: a quiet(ish) beginning, leading to a fucking mental, rocking chorus, with personal, emotional lyrics, and it gives you a high, making you want to listen to it again, as loudly as possible, immediately.
I could have cried when the band played the intro to another song which has become one of my favourites of theirs, “Blind”, from the “Meds” album. I always loved it, but it was when I first watched the live show that was included as a DVD in the boxset of “Battle for the Sun”, a pared-down, acoustic set in Angkor Wat in Cambodia (drummer Steve Forrest’s first gig with them, I believe), that it really drew me in. It’s a thing of true beauty, a heartbreaking song, that pulls and tugs and makes you believe in love all over again. (The line which gets to me every single time I hear it is, “Find a brand new way of seeing / Your eyes forever glued to mine”.)
After “The Bitter End”, they left the stage, but the crowd wasn’t gonna let them off that easily. After a few minutes, they came back to yells and screams, and played four more songs, including their fabulous cover version of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and my other favourite from “Meds”, “Post Blue” (“It’s in the water, baby / It’s in the pills that pick you up / It’s in the water, baby / It’s in the special way we fuck”).
They finished with another one from that album, “Infra Red”, and when they finally left the stage for the night, ending the tour on a high, it was 10:50 – they had been on for almost two hours.
I said goodbye to Claire and Mick and then went round the back, where a few others were waiting by the stage door. That wouldn’t have been where the band came out, if they were going to – there’s a production entrance a little further along, and I’ve been to the Academy before, so I kept a keen eye out. Then I heard that if anything, they’d come out round the very back, where the Fly-by-Nite truck was waiting for their gear to be loaded up. But when I went round there, I saw Ray again, and asked him if there was any chance at all that the boys would come out. No, he said. ‘Not a chance?’ I said, wanting to be sure. ‘You’re not shitting me?’ ‘No,’ he said. They were in the dressing room chilling out and even if they were to come out, it wouldn’t be for ages. I thanked him for being honest with me and then left, passing on the message to a couple who were coming round the corner for the same reason. They thanked me for letting them know, and then I said the same to the (mostly) girls who were still waiting by the stage door. One of them said they would chance it. Well, I’d done my bit. They could wait or not wait, but the band weren’t coming out.
It was really a fabulous gig and illustrated once more why I and so many others love Placebo so much and hold them in such affection. They have genuine, raw talent that they use to produce blinding songs that sock you in the gut and force you to learn about yourself along the way.
Thanks, boys. I won’t ever forget this night.
For What It’s Worth
Loud Like Love
Every You Every Me
Too Many Friends
Scene of the Crime
A Million Little Pieces
Speak in Tongues
Rob the Bank
Song to Say Goodbye
Running Up That Hill