Live @ Bristol Colston Hall
April 15, 2003

Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

Placebo were once dubbed "The Filthiest Band in Britain," thanks to a notorious rock 'n' roll lifestyle, which was second only, to their striking songs. Whilst hits such as Nancy Boy made waves in the late '90s, their subsequent album releases Without You I'm Nothing and Black Market Music, flirted with yet more introspection / variations on the band's unmistakable sound.

So, prior to the release of their fourth LP in 2003, Sleeping With Ghosts, Brian explained to Kerrang: "We've now reached a point where we know each other forward and backward, inside and out as musicians. There's this unspoken bond, and that gave us a great deal of freedom and an instinctual approach, to what we were doing." Sound-wise and image-wise, this is where Placebo should be - they are at a pivotal stage in their career and are handling it with grace. What this does mean unfortunately, is that early tracks such as Nancy Boy, have been dropped from their sets, as the band "no longer feel connected to them emotionally."

However, fans will not be disappointed in the new album. As well as featuring left-field experimentation i.e. Something Rotten, it is without doubt, a fantastic in-your-face rock record. It has energy and melody, and Jim Abbiss's production has added just enough polish, without detracting from Placebo's dark / alternative edge.

Like Sleeping With Ghosts, tonight's set begins with the riff-heavy instrumental Bulletproof Cupid, and coupled with the strobe-lighting effect (showing small glimpses of Brian, Stefan and Steve), this has to rank as one of the most memorable gig openings, that I've ever witnessed!

Protect Me From What I Want and Plasticine, lead us into 3 classic singles (complete with Brian's spiky guitar playing), The Bitter End, Every You Every Me and Black Eyed. The fans are enraptured and sing along to every word. "Thank you very much Ladies and Gentleman" Brian replies - "Welcome to The Best Festival that never happened."

He later describes an upcoming song, as one of his "personal favourites", which turns out to be Special Needs. Lyrically and musically, it is indeed beautiful + compassionate, and like Second Sight and Without You I'm Nothing, which follow, these tracks highlight Placebo's proficiency, in writing moving and maudlin compositions.

English Summer Rain showcases some of the band's new sonic experimentation, and features the catchy chorus "I'm in the basement baby, you're in the sky, I'm in the basement baby, drop on by." This Picture is vintage Placebo and has 'Hit' written all over it. It also provides Brian and Stefan, with the perfect opportunity to make cool playing shapes, during the performance!

The set has been clearly structured, to give weight to the new album, so many well-known songs are left until the close of the night. Special K, Taste In Men, Slave To The Wage and Pure Morning are grouped together, with Brian altering the Slave lyrics to "Sick and tired of Tony's farm, he's George's bitch with broken arms." This political reference, is further reiterated when the song ends, "No To War - Peace for the Middle East", which arouses great sympathy from the audience.

The encore is as memorable as the set's opening, with Brian hugging Stefan during an acoustic piano version of Teenage Angst, and announcing that their last song tonight, was written by "Contenders for The Best Fucking Band Ever… The Pixies." In paying tribute to this seminal band, Placebo make Where Is My Mind? their own.

A very special thanks to Sarah @ Pomona, for all of her help, and to Placebo + their management / security.

Placebo in Adelaide by Kimberly Brown