9th December 2009, Review by Fatima Meah
Placebo returned to the live arena in their eagerly anticipated biggest UK gig to date at Londons O2 Arena. Supported by Silversun Pickups (good) and The Horrors (mediocre).The excitement as 20,000 fans awaited Placebo to grace the stage was palpable.
Unusually for a gig, a series of short, arty and abstract films were shown between the last support act and the headliners. It was an odd but welcome distraction, as waiting around for bands to come on stage can sometimes be quite tedious.
Placebo kicked off with For What It’s Worth from previous album “Meds” to deafening screams as the crowd surged forwards trying to get as close as humanly possible to the stage. It soon becomes clear that the precedent for the evening is the new rather than the old. Playing a majority of tracks from “Meds” and “Battle for the Sun”, their two most recent studio albums, they sadly omitted the many classics that created the “Placebo” sound.
Shockingly, Teenage Angst and Nancy Boy were not played (much to the surprise of many). A bold and brave move, clearly highlighting the band’s more recent repertoire of material that is easily forgotten when compared to their older and grander efforts.
Still, they were musically sound with tracks such as Special Needs and The Bitter End sounding polished and they were in general tighter than ever. More intricate and mellow songs such as Happy When You’re Gone were met with dull appreciation until they played Meds – a haunting version far surpassing the album recording. Brian Molko’s vocals were surprisingly faultless, with an endless barrage of energy simply emanating from the band. Stefan Osdal unleashed the inner bass god in a blindingly shiny silver suit and new drummer Steve Forrest pounded fiercely away as though his very life depended on it. No strings were left unpulled as they added to the live ensemble four people playing strings, two backup singers, a saxophone player, keyboardist and an extra guitarist, recreating the huge sound captured on record and catapulted it onto their fans like blinding fire at the O2 Arena.
But still, something seemed missing… the magic wavered at times. The expectation and excitement was clearly there – but by missing out on some of those staple tracks, the gig was something great but nowhere near as euphoric as it sadly could have been.