Placebo

support The Mirror Trap
author TL date 14/10/16 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

After seven albums in twenty years, famed brit-rockers Placebo have arrived at a point in their career where they - supposedly - feel like it's time to look back for a bit after having moved ever forward until now. The 'greatest hits' compilation "A Place For Us To Dream" is out, and next on the band's itinerary is the "20 years of Placebo" tour, on which they've promised to "play songs they had otherwise sworn to never play", making it sound like they're ready to embrace their past and reward long-time fans. That notion got surrounded with a lot of question marks, though, with frontman Brian Molko melting down for one reason or other (official statement says "new meds") on the very first evening of the tour, stopping the show in Aarhus after only two songs and reportedly mumbling something about how you "shouldn't do something if it doesn't feel right". Safe to say a lot of ticket holders for tonight woke up to those headlines with a bit of "yikes!" reaction.

Pictures of Placebo by Nikola Majkic

The Mirror Trap

Concerns of Molko's commitment to the cause has not caused Vega to be deserted, though, as the venue is already half filled when Scotland's The Mirror Trap start their support set a bit early, presumably to cram in a few more tunes in their tight spot in the schedule. And although it can seem a bit superfluous that the group at times have three guitars in play, they do a lot of things right for a supposedly young group freshly done with their second album. Dressed for the occasion in a mix of post-punk and rock'n'roll style attire, they make a visual impression, also by rocking very energetically. Singer Gary Moore seems like he takes entertaining seriously, gesturing excitedly, while keeping things moving between songs with quick remarks and introductions to the songs: A welcome approach that bands in support slots should always make note of.

Picture borrowed from The Mirror Trap's facebook

The music bears some resemblance to the headliners, containing hints of glam, post-punk and punk-rock, yet unfortunately seems a bit lost between these styles. In terms of melody the band seems to desire a certain gravity and melancholy, but the tempo is often a bit too fast and punk-ish for it to sink in, and this impression is reflected in the contrast between how Moore emphasises lyrics with his movements, yet is in too much of a rush to make us feel the importance of any phrases in particular. He throws his vocals around a lot, imbuing the performance with plenty of dramatic effects, yet you don't really get a feel for whether there's something really pleasant to listen for in his voice, and sadly, on a rare song where the band do slow down and give him room, what he displays isn't as tuneful as you could've wished for.

Overall, the band earns points for doing a lot of things right performance-wise, but ultimately leaves an impression of a group that needs to solve their stylistic puzzle a bit better and find the confidence to not rush the atmospheres they're trying to create musically.

Placebo

Alright, so nine o'clock arrives and Vega is packed. We're talking fish in a barrel, someone's elbow is in my back and if you're wearing a cap, you gotta turn it around to not knock the person in front of you with the shade. Apparently neither the news of last night's fiasco nor the fact that The Cure are playing just a few minutes away, has dampened Denmark's interest in seeing Placebo. The set commences in sort of a mysterious way, with "Every You And Every Me" blasting from the speakers, the video running on the backdrop, yet no band members in sight. A good song can provide some long minutes for wondering if we're in for a YouTube concert tonight, apparently. Our anxiety is drawn out, as the opening chords to "Pure Morning" are then repeated seemingly endlessly, before finally, some actual human beings appear on stage, indicating that we are indeed going to get our concert. Now to hoping it's longer than two songs, right?

The oldie is followed by the title track from 2013's "Loud Like Love", and then Molko mumbles something as an introduction before "Jesus' Son", presumably about being risen from the day before maybe? In any case, it's the most talk we get to hear before a marathon of tracks, old and new. Molko and Stefan Olsdal - the band's two remaining full-time members - are alone at the front of the stage, while they have at least four members in the back playing bass, drums, violin, keys and guitar, and of course there's the large backdrop of lights that plays various visual effects throughout. Tracks like "Special Needs", "Devil In The Details" and "Protect Me From What I Want" get people excited with their opening notes, and while the band plays through the set tightly, it's the songs doing the work, as the sense of celebration of each individual song stays out of reach, both looking at the band on stage and listening to the sound. Not that Vega's brand new speaker setup isn't actually delivering a pretty good mix: it is decent in the gross sense, but details like the violin and certain guitar bits do get somewhat blurred and lost under the loudness of the basic song elements.

You could make a few bullet points out of talking about how Vega's stage is a bit low, meaning that when it's this full anyone shorter than roughly 180 centimeters will have a hard time seeing anything, and about how that fucking song "Too Many Friends" has such a great composition matched with so utterly awful lyrics that it grinds on your sanity.. And about how "For What It's Worth" has such a great horn flourish at around 2:20 that it's a great shame it's not an emphasis in the live arrangement. But neither of those remarks are actually specific to this concert, they're just always like that.

Speaking of "For What It's Worth", though, something seems to happen to the band when they get to it, roughly three quarters through the set and just after having paid tribute to David Bowie with "Without You I'm Nothing". Suddenly both Molko and Olsdal liven up somewhat as if fueled by the song's dynamic build-up. Molko loosens up a bit and looks like he just might be enjoying making some noise, while Olsdal starts dancing increasingly seductively with his bass, and takes paces back and forth from his mic stand, eventually passing by it to brandish his guitar towards the audience from the edge of the stage, egging them on in a way the band hadn't enganged in until now. "Slave To The Wage" and "Special K" follow, and you can tell from the audience that the experience suddenly got boosted from "enjoyable" to "ecstasy-inducing".

The regular set ends with the rampant and always awesome "The Bitter End", but two encores also follow, first with "Teenage Angst", "Nancy Boy" and "Infra-Red", and then eventually with the Kate Bush cover "Running Up That Hill". And then after two hours, Placebo wrap up, putting down their guitars and bowing and waving before heading off. And frankly, they played rather solidly, with only a few details missing out in an otherwise tight mix, as previously alluded to. Did they lay to rest any concerns about whether or not they actually enjoy celebrating their old material with their fans, though? Not exactly, too great a part of the set was characterised by routine for that and, considerations about band stature and show length obligations aside, one wonders if in an ideal world Placebo and their fans would have enjoyed each other more if they'd played a show of half the length with only the tracks they themselves enjoy. As opposed to the unfortunate opening to their tour, however, Placebo did give the fans what they paid for on their second attempt, and with the clear quality of so many of their songs, it's hard to not have had at least a pretty good evening.

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