Placebo, Bristol Amphitheatre, 28th June 2024

The last time I saw Placebo was the Kerrang Big Day Out at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1999, when Metallica headlined. I crewed that one, a friend having called me up and asked me at the last moment if I could get to Milton Keynes for a 6am start. My memories of Placebo’s set back then are of Brian Molko’s intense energy and presence and the synergy between him and Stefan Olsdal, and a tight and driven set full of punchy numbers. (For the record, Placebo are far nicer to work with than the act who followed them, Marilyn Manson, of whom the less said the better. All I can say is that when all the allegations came out about Brian Warner, I wasn’t in the least surprised.)

25 years on, Brian Molko has lost none of that energy and presence; it was out in full force on Friday at the Bristol Amphitheatre on a warm, balmy summer’s evening.

The Bristol Amphitheatre is to be commended for its accessibility provisions; it’s been well over a decade since last I was able to attend gigs, and these days I walk with a stick. Those of us with accessibility needs were directed to a raised area that was directly opposite the stage with plenty of seating and room for wheelchairs. So often at gigs the accessibility area is off to one side, so to have such an unimpeded view of the stage like that was fantastic. We had our own bar and toilets as well, and plenty of staff to assist. 10/10 to Crosstown and Bristol Sounds for their accessibility provision there.

The first band up were Friedberg from London, who brought a lot of bouncy, fun energy to the stage for the small early crowd that had gathered for the 6pm start. Anna F was in fine voice and the whole band brought an infectious enthusiasm to the start of the gig that had a lot of people dancing. Their set was driven by percussion and guitars, with the song “Midi-8” particularly standing out as featuring both Anna F on a variety of percussion instruments (including cowbell) and Laura Williams on drums playing an extended percussion section. Their new single “The Greatest” is out now.

They were followed up by slacker indie group Porridge Radio from Brighton. They didn’t manage to match the energy of Friedberg, sadly; I was left with the impression that lead vocalist and guitarist Dana Margolin would like to be Florence Welch but sadly she falls short of this and her voice seemed to clash at times with that of keyboardist Georgie Stott. Their songs meandered and seemed to go on for too long, and it felt like we were applauding perfunctory simply out of thankfulness that they were over. Perhaps Margolin picked up on this; she exhorted the crowd several times to dance and shout, but got half-hearted responses. They did seem to pick up a little towards the end of their set, but unfortunately the overall impression was of two or three decent songs and a lot of noise that went nowhere. A shame, after the energy and fun of Friedberg.

But of course we were all there for Placebo. A projection of Brian Molko’s face appeared on a large screen as he asked people not to film the show or take large amounts of photos, as Placebo want people to be fully present and experience the show properly rather than be detached and filming; he also pointed out it’s a matter of courtesy to our fellow concert-goers. He finished by asking us to look out for one another, which drew a round of applause from the crowd.

What followed was a blisteringly fantastic show that proved that Brian and Stefan may be 25 years older but they’ve lost none of the energy and drive that they had back in 1999, and Brian’s voice is just as strong as ever. We were treated to a selection of songs from “Never Let Me Go”, but there were plenty of old fan favourites in there as well that had the crowd screaming with delight from the first notes such as “Every Me, Every You”, “The Bitter End”, “Slave To The Wage”, and “Infra-Red”. Even “Nancy Boy” had an outing, despite Brian Molko’s ambivalent relationship with the song – before playing it however, he reiterated his request about filming with phones, asking people to help him get into the right headspace to sing it, stating that he wanted to be able to see people’s faces and not the backs of their phones – “Yes, Mr Bald Head, I’m talking to you; put the phone down…” addressed to one particular member of the audience. It’s clear that forming a connection with the audience is important to both Brian and Stefan, and they thrive off it. Stefan jumped down off the stage to join the audience during “Nancy Boy” whilst Brian gave an energetic driven performance from the stage, moving forward several times to grin euphorically at people.

We were treated to two encores, the night ending on “Running Up That Hill”, with Brian and Stefan at the end setting their guitars to feed back whilst they then started playing around with settings on the amps and preamps in their usual show ending.

With a career spanning 30 years, Placebo have proven they have lost none of their drive and enthusiasm – and can still put on one hell of a fantastic show.

Set list:
Taste In Men
Beautiful James
Scene of the Crime
Happy Birthday In The Sky
Surrounded By Spies
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

Running Up That Hill

One thought on “Placebo, Bristol Amphitheatre, 28th June 2024

  1. The only way I could wish I’d been there any harder would be if you said the set list included “Haemoglobin” and “Pure Morning”.

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