support United + Expatriate
author TL date 12/11/09 venue KB Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN

I'm a Placebo fan. Not a raging Placebo fan, one that loyally recites the lyrics to each and every song of their six album discography, but one who got on board on the fourth album, "Sleeping With Ghosts" and have harbored a mild admiration for Brian Molko and his mates ever since. So, having seen them once at Roskilde with a performance so authentic that it still stands among the top shows I've seen, it's fair to say that I was quite fuckin' excited for the band's show in KB Hallen tonight. So as I enter the venue along with the early audience, some 30-45 minutes before the first band is set to start, I do so with good feeling on top of my usual thirst for beer. After a quick stop at the bar, I enter the main room and see that Placebo haven't settled for just ordinary pre-show music. Instead, animated short films are being projected onto a massive white backdrop, interrupted by advertisement for MTV Exit, a campaign seeking to counter human trafficking - a pretty cool way to keep the audience occupied while we wait for the first band if you ask me.


Said first band is United, who despite sounding so God damn Brit rock it hurts, soon reveal to us that they are in fact located in Stockholm, Sweden. They sure had me fooled though, because both music and appearance are as wannabe-Placebo as can possibly be conceived, frontman "Gogo" sporting a purple suit alá The Joker and in general looking like his dressing sense was inspired by the movie Velvet Goldmine (the Jack Fairy character comes to mind). Like it is so often the case for a support band, the sound isn't doing United any favours, being poor even for KB Hallen, and frequent visitors of this venue will know that this means it is more or less impossible for any band to impress anyone under those circumstances. Such is also the case here, as United's songs drift by with little possibility for anyone to make out many details, even sporting ear plugs, and instead, we are left to wonder if it is arrogance or just inexperience that prompts Gogo to often utter the words "thank you", before the crowd even decides whether or not it wants to applaud his band. However, the longer they play, and the more he opens up, it becomes apparent that Gogo really does fit the role of the fragile, strange, metro performer, who is merely grateful of the people who have shown up early enough to pay him and his bandmates any attention. As such, you have to award him some points for humility and authenticity, but even then, I doubt that many are left with a feeling of being impressed, when United leave the stage after a good half hour of performance.



After another trip to the bar it is time for second support Expatriate, and with them, the story is entirely different. They are a four piece of Australians-turned-Germans (moving from Sydney to Germany) who claim to play a dark brand of pop rock, inspired by bands such as U2 and Simple Minds. Though those claims will prove to be spot on, it's isn't as much the music which makes the biggest impression in the beginning, as it is the attitude the band steps up with. Compared to United, Expatriate come on with all the confidence of a seasoned, crowd-pleasing rock band, seeming like men who are ready to play a show that could just as well have been the main attraction. The images that flickered across the backdrop while United was playing (oops, forgot to mention that), are now bigger and better and so is the show and the music, as Expatriate welcome the increasing crowd with easily-accessible and effectively rockin' tunes, inciting lots of clapping along in songs, and cheering in between them. Still though, from a critical point of view, there's hardly anything revolutionary about the show on display, and on record, I'm sure that most would find the music to be a little too safe and straight forward to really excite, and hence it's hard to think of Expatriate as more than a competent and solid warm up act, who need to fortify their own personality some more, before they can truly step out of the shadow of a headlining act.



As for Placebo, I had figured in advance that they are a quite big band, and that hence I should be prepared for a rather large scale show. Still though, I didn't quite expect something of this particular magnitude, for when the lights finally dimmed and the audience faced the stage, the massive white backdrop, that had been used as a cinema screen up until now, was dropped to reveal raised drum kits and amp stacks, a handful of backing musicians (on extra guitar, bass, keyboard, violin and more) and last but not least, a massive fuckin' screen behind everything. Placebo open up with a broadside of tracks off the new album, "For What It's Worth", "Ashtray Heart" and "Battle For The Sun" each of which is received surprisingly well by a crowd I would have expected to be mostly here for Placebo's old material. However, from the get go, people are dancing, clapping and singing along at the top of their lungs in a manner that suggests that I'm not the one who has eagerly anticipated this night. Things are made a bit more mellow with the next trio of songs, "Soulmates", "Speak In Tongues" and "Follow The Cops Back Home", but as we come to see, it is simply to allow us to catch our breath as it precedes a tour de force that's opened up with the classic "Every You And Every Me" closed of with "Breathe Underwater" and "Because I Want You", both seeing more unwavering singalongs from a fiercely loyal audience.

And it's not like Placebo do not deserve this dedication, because on stage they are busy performing like the truest of all rock stars, pulling all the right moves and emitting the most appropriate of attitudes, wasting little time between songs, rather quickly switching instruments and feeding the crowd more and more songs from their extensive discography. There is no lull to be found here, as each song simply seems to satisfy a different section of the audience. Helped greatly by some of the best sound you'll ever get to hear in this terribly echoing venue, you can easily pick out all instruments and vocals, even if there the violin and lead guitar still have a few moments where they could've been a bit crisper. It matters little, because looking at Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal and Steve Forrest, you're mesmerized by the sight of a band that have managed to become arena rock stars, without ever giving any notion of having sold out any of their alternative image. There's no cheesy stage banter and no corny crowd interaction, instead Placebo mostly let their songs do the talking, to the delight of a host of faces, most of which depict that this is a band that at one point or the other, really meant something to them. It's impressive to notice the aura of 23 year old new drummer Forrest, as he pummels the kit with an intensity and an authority that betrays his recent addition to a band of Placebo's size, and surely, many a woman (and sexually undecided man maybe, this is Placebo after all) will leave the venue with imprinted mental images of his blonde hair and tattoed torso.

The ordinary set ends after rapturous response to both "Meds" and "Song To Say Goodbye", but as the back screen displays a body-painted woman ballet-dancing to fickle tunes, we are clued in on an impending encore, and rightly, Placebo return and make things explode with "Bright Lights", "Special K" and "Bitter End". Then they leave again, but still they aren't done, because there's still a light show and a beat keeping us interested, and surely enough, there's a second encore, satisfying many with "Trigger Happy" and especially "Infra-Red" and "Taste In Men", both of which I think many have been missing up until this point. Then however, things truly are over, and as Placebo and their hired musicians approach front stage to bow to their audience in classic fashion, one gazes at the time and realizes that we have been entertained for almost two hours of solid Placebo music. And still, outside, people are complaining slightly that we didn't get more, bemoaning the omission of for instance "Pure Morning" (personally I would've loved to hear "This Picture"), but even the hardest of critics seem to agree that tonight's show was fully satisfactory. Me, I think that while a Placebo Greatest Hits show would be the stuff dreams are made of, the fact that they're still touring with focus on their newest opus shows that they are still a band who consider themselves relevant and in the moment, and with the deafening cheers and thundering stomping of feet, twice calling them back to the stage tonight and shaking the floorboards of KB Hallen, one is hard pressed to argue with them. Arguably, this is probably the biggest rock show you can see without having to go for a band that has somehow compromised their integrity, and that alone merits a shitload of commendation.

Placebo Setlist KB Hallen, Copenhagen, Denmark 2009, Battle For The Sun Tour

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