Wednesday 26 June 2024

Placebo - Halifax Piece Hall - 25th June 2024

As the cycle of their last album Never Let Me Go draws to a close, Placebo opened their UK and European dates with an outdoor show in the resplendent surroundings of Halifax’s Piece Hall.

“It sounds better than a Roman amphitheatre” Brian Molko tells us a few songs into the set. He’s right that Piece Hall is a beautiful place, possibly the finest in any urban setting in the country, to watch live music but the sound of the band where we’re stood seven rows back in front of Stefan felt more like it was covered in Pompeiian lava, so we hear little of the keyboards, strings and backing vocals, surprising us as the sound has been superb on previous visits stood in a similar spot.

Molko’s voice comes through loud and clear though, and unlike many of his contemporaries it’s aged like a fine wine and the emotion in it and connection he talks about in his prerecorded message about living in the moment and not through your phone camera very much come through, particularly as darkness starts to set in.

The Piece Hall security take that message and adopt a zero tolerance policy to it even though the vast majority of the crowd adhere to Molko’s polite request. The pit crew stand on the barrier telling people to stop while we’re more disturbed by orange shirts pushing through to stop someone taking a quick picture than we are by people heading to the bar. This breaks the connection far more than anything the audience does. The security were following instructions in their defence but the band need to consider whether such a vehement stance is counter-productive.

The set takes heavily, six songs in total, from Never Let Me Go. Whilst there’s more from earlier albums for the more casual fans, Placebo are true to their word that they’re about the here and now and unique experiences than they are about songs like Pure Morning, 36 Degrees and Teenage Angst which captured a time and place in Molko’s life that he’s moved on from. Thankfully Never Let Me Go is one of their strongest records and songs like Surrounded By Spies, Beautiful James and Try Better Next Time more than hold their own and Placebo’s crowd, unlike many, are receptive to them and not just waiting for scraps from their past.

That’s not to say Placebo aren’t wise enough to get the mix right. Bionic and “this song scares the shit out of me” Nancy Boy go all the way back to their self-titled debut and each of their eight studio albums is represented by at least one song, even if it isn’t the most obvious selection. As darkness falls Molko bids us to dance and the quartet of Slave To The Wage, Song To Say Goodbye, The Bitter End and Nancy Boy provide the soundtrack for the audience’s attentiveness to switch to letting go to the music.

Infra-Red opens the encore before they finish with their cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill that ends in a wall of feedback as Brian and Stefan leave the stage last. For a band with such a strong back catalogue to end on a cover might seem a little odd but Placebo have made the song their own.  Unique, charismatic and still refusing to conform Placebo have evolved without ever compromising on the standards which they set themselves and their belief in the connecting power of their music.

Placebo played Taste In Men, Beautiful James, Scene Of The Crime, Happy Birthday In The Sky, Bionic, Surrounded By Spies, Soulmates, Every You Every Me, Sad White Reggae, Try Better Next Time, Too Many Friends, Went Missing, For What It’s Worth, Slave To The Wage, Song To Say Goodbye, The Bitter End, Nancy Boy, Infra-Red and Running Up That Hill.

Placebo's official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

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