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Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal are regarded as the undisputed incarnation of Placebo, the legendary Alternative Rock Band from London, which was founded in 1994 by these two men. Diverse changes of drums led them to the current state, only to hire session musicians for gigs and to act mainly as a duo since 2015. Molko's fragile, melancholic vocals have long since become synonymous with the sweet pain of existence and the androgynous appearance iconic and at the time of their founding highly progressive. In 2022, the latest album "Never Let Me Go" was released and the time was ripe for a new extensive tour across Europe. With the emerging young band DEADLETTER in tow, Molko and Olsdal travel through the European countries, and one of the few stops in Germany is the Barclays Arena in Hamburg. Could Placebo convince, or did they go under during their own show? One thing may be said in advance: there was more than one surprise that evening.
The biggest surprise of the evening came from the support act DEADLETTER, also from London, a six-piece post-punk band with jazz and noise elements. The still quite unknown DEADLETTER must have left a great impression with their sporadic discography to get the slot of such a coveted tour. The five men and the female saxophonist impress with their unpredictability coupled with vibrant, driving rhythms. The saxophone is fully used as an additional instrument and gives the group an additional dimension, which is why a considerable focus lies in the compositions.
Typically sarcastic, as it is customary for British punk, the singer's voice echoes through the full interior of the Barclays Arena with crystal clear sound. In addition to the crispy, rich sound, the unbridled music invites the crowd to dance, while the frontman holds the crowd tightly in his grip. In short, DEADLETTER convince in all regards and offer a fine taste of the ever stronger post-punk scene from the UK; energetic and hypnotizing.
After a good momentum was brought into the building by DEADLETTER, the mood changed suddenly during the reconstruction phase. The projection surfaces, which were placed on various adjustable LED panels, lit up brightly. A friendly, but specific message was shown, asking the audience to refrain from making mobile phone videos throughout the concert. The request was accompanied by a statement of reasons, which claimed that it would destroy the immersion of the moment and significantly disturb the concentration of the musicians.
This message has been projected twice, once in German and once in English, and this request was met by an astonishing number of guests. It is an enormous relief when concert events actively emphasize that mobile phones should not be used during show time: this is a matter of respect towards art and its proponents, and a negative modern trend that will hopefully one day come to a sudden end.
ne fact is certain: Placebo perform emotional and vulnerable music, which could not be more authentic. The above-mentioned message alone speaks volumes before their performance begins, and as soon as Placebo take the stage, this fact becomes even clearer. Almost intimidated, Brian Molko appears as a frontman, while his partner Stefan Olsdal takes over as entertainer. Lowering his gaze almost permanently to the floor in order not to make eye contact with the audience, the eccentric Molko plays through his set in a focused manner, without losing any passion.
Also striking is the complete omission of all speeches, as it is usual during concerts, which can help to create a deeper immersion. The music is all that matters, so to speak. With over 30 years of stage experience, their status alone should suffice. Raw emotionality without banter is thrown towards the audience for about 100 minutes, which is accentuated by Placebo's typical spherical severity.
For the live setting, Molko and Olsdal take over the foreground, while the session musicians are visually pushed into the background. Such a constellation is common in projects whose essence consists of only one or two persons maximum. The focus of the evening was clearly the new album, from which all eleven songs were performed live. It was only at the end of the set that classics such as "Song To Say Goodbye" and "The Bitter End" were tuned in, whereby evergreens such as "Every You Every Me" were painfully omitted.
Nevertheless, the concert represents a triumph for the music world when large, proven acts clearly speak out against today's mobile phone trend. Among other things, there were cover versions of "Shout" by Tears For Fears as well as Kate Bush´s "Running Up That Hill" as a finale. In 2022, the latter enjoys a renewed appreciation, particularly through its integral role in the fourth season of Stranger Things. In conclusion, Placebo is still a force to be reckoned with in the music world. With their outstanding support act DEADLETTER they proved to have a good sense in the search for raw talent. Both thumbs up!
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Originally published on January 30, 2023, updated on February 3, 2023