Last Saturday was a perplexing affair in Newcastle; the morning sunshine gave way to lashing rain, which was quickly replaced by snow (what’s this Global Warming the news keeps on telling me about?) before the sun came back out to play. And I was going to see a gig in a refurbished century-old building owned by beer manufacturers. To add to that I couldn’t actually remember the last live rock act I’d seen.
The opening bars to White Rose Movement’s set focused my mind with a beautifully melodious way to introduce themselves. Unfortunately songs need words, which if you didn’t already know requires singing – which is where WRM fell flat on their arses. Badly let down by vocalist Finn Vine who seemed to have been a little on the over-indulgent side pre-show, the banter between band and crowd was no more than “Does anyone know who the fuck we are?”. At which point the nonplussed audience seemed more concerned with staring at their feet than honouring Vine with a response.
That didn’t seem to sap the life out of anyone other than yours truly who then expected the headliners to play the same song over and over again for an hour or so, because all of Placebo’s music is exactly the same. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrong before in my life. Opening with the title track from their latest album Meds, the fervour in the building was both tangible and inescapable – the buzz certainly was contagious.
What I didn’t expect was that Placebo didn’t even need to churn out a greatest hits set to keep the crowd engaged, with the opening six numbers all coming from Meds. This included the album’s first single Because I Want You, which gave the audience the opportunity to expend some energy which Brian Molko and bassist Stefan Olsdal evidently picked up on. Space Monkey had Brian howling into a megaphone which created a strange Manson meets Muse moment. Strange but beautiful.
Molko’s interaction with the crowd was limited and seemingly unwilling to diverge from the script as we were told that the next song contained some very bad advice. I’m sure Northumbria Police wouldn’t have been too impressed with Follow The Cops Back Home and its lyrics of “Lets follow the cops back home and rob their houses”. Not even Special Needs or Every You Every Me could compete with Post Blue in terms of blissful deliverance, paired with glowing orange stage-lighting it seemed about as perfect as live performances can go.
As the strains of Nancy Boy faded, the overriding emotion from those around was elation, there was something magnificently simple about the performance from a band who at worst can be described as formulaic. The ‘nostalgic’ part of the set went to show that Placebo have progressed in their ten year existence, but they’ve been taking baby steps. I saw them three years ago but I can barely remember that uninspiring performance, I’ll be devastated if my memory blanks out this show.