There’s something about the management of the medium size sheds like Kentish Town’s The Forum and Brixton’s Academy. Perhaps someone had the bright idea to enact a sociological experiment on gig-goers or perhaps somewhere near Banbury there is a laboratory warehouse whose sole purpose is to produce door staff. Whatever, I was again flummuxed by the sheer lack of simple courtesy on display from the staff at the Academy as they allowed us to order drinks (served in plastic glasses) at the Circle Bar only to refuse us admittance to the hall until we’d drunk our purchases. My friend’s good humour and a modicum of sense was all that stopped me from entering into a quite pointless argument with the lobotomized dweeboid who suggested that, should we be allowed in with our glasses, we may “chuck ‘em over the balcony”. Civil wars have started with smaller insults.
Finally, humouring the morons (indeed there were two), we entered the place as the personification of boy scouts and parked ourselves near to the front of the balcony. The very front of said was not possible, see, as the venue’s top brass had decided, in their infinite wisdom, to tape off the first four rows, thus rendering an already impossible view of the stage even worse. Opera glasses would be useless – telescopes may have helped, but they’d probably have been confiscated, like my friend’s plastic bottle of water…
Rant over. Simmering down despite all, we began to speculate on what Six By Seven might be like. A black tab was all the set that was offered to this relatively new group whose debut album The Closer You Get was described by Melody Maker as “the best album of the year so far”. Well, if you like heavy guitar bands anyway. When they did appear, they were exactly as we both expected – a heavy guitar band who played heavy guitar songs. Texture, depth and variation were all lost to the overwhelming guitar noise with even recent singles New Year and Eat Junk Become Junk sounding impossibly average. Standing up momentarily to get a view of the mosh-pit below, I made out much movement, not all of it by the superb lighting (credit where credit is due!). There were definite signs of physical activity at any rate.
As a warm-up band, therefore, with their hard-as-nails sound, Six By Seven prepared the way for the headliners in great fashion. Placebo did have the advantage of a significantly larger performing space – when the black tab was hauled down we were agog at the sheer size of The Academy’s stage.
Size big or size small, the elvin frame of Brian Molko proceeded to fill it all with his presence, his superb purple (or was that the lights?) lounge suit and his characteristic glam-rock make-up. There was never any real doubt that the new Placebo album would dominate proceedings and thus it proved, with a string of heavy guitar songs unwound to put Six By Seven to shame. Not having heard the new album before the gig was a distinct disadvantage, for I knew none of the new songs. Happily we had a Geordie with a Canadian accent (would I kid you?) parked enthusiastically next to us who talked us through what he thought of each track i) after the first bar ii) half way through and iii) at the end. “Fooking brilliant, waaannit” was emitted on more than one occasion, and indeed, one had to respect Placebo’s ability to captivate their captive audience.
The difficulty was, even at the end of the set, I couldn’t remember any of the new stuff. Like most of the rest of the place I was delighted when the line “and it aaawl breaks deeeawn at the dress rehearsawl” was uttered and, when Pure Morning predicatably wound up proceedings, I was singing with the rest of the lunatics around. That song will stand as Placebo’s finest moment for some time, for while the new material is inoffensive it is also rather forgettable compared to what went before.
Emerging through the extraordinary tack of the venue’s blacked-out corridoors and stairwell, we passed the t-shirt vendors, one of whom yelled at 300 decibels in my ear “T-SHIRTS T-SHIRTS”. Despite all the heavy guitars of both bands in Brixton tonight, it was this uncouth specimen who most made my ears ring.