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Placebo live

| April 18, 2007 | 0 Comments

House Of Blues, Chicago
Friday, April 13, 2007

Placebo might not be who you think they are. Or, rather, they might not be who you thought they were.


The States’ go-to image of Placebo is one that, for some time, the band themselves happily perpetuated. That is to say, a group of glam-rock nancy boys who whine and sneer through songs like “Pure Morning” and other androgynous Brit-pop anthems, all the while playing up their boyish metro-cum-gothic persona.

Which might not be entirely accurate anymore, if Friday’s show at the House Of Blues was any indication. The Placebo who dominated that night had little interest in playing coy and dedicated only so much time to wallowing. Instead, recent fare like show opener “Infra-Red” and the title track of last year’s Meds (Astralwerks/Virgin), complete with an over-exagerrated and exasperated sigh of an ending, set the stage early for the night’s impressive and consistent intensity level. Even more surprising, Meds track “Drag” could almost be described as positively upbeat — an adjective not especially associated with the Placebo experience.

As the evening went on, Placebo further ventured into previously virgin territory by getting more expansive and experimental. The hypnotic “Twenty Years” featured a curiously hollowed-out stand-up bass, while Placebo staple “Every You Every Me” found new life with an extended intro, an over-emphasized chorus, and a sped-up, riff-heavy climax. The band even delved into their rarities with their cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” coming across all at once haunting, mournful, and melodic.

What little time Placebo did reserve for their more sorrowful pieces, however, was definitely well spent. Songs like “Follow The Cops Back Home” captured the essence of Placebo’s characteristic tragic romanticism. Likewise, it proved impossible not to get moved by Sleeping With Ghosts‘ spacious and simultaneously hopeful and melancholy “Special Needs,” with it’s repeated call of “Just 19/special needs.”

Five albums in, Placebo have proved their staying power, and remain among the best of the alternative Brit-pop invasion — outrunning the hype and outlasting the trends. And live, the continued experimentation, coupled with the fact the group are just now discovering their guitars, hints at further evolution and bodes well for future innovations.

Jaime de’Medici

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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