Placebo / Little Hell / 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Manchester Academy 1 - 11.4.03

To all intents and purposes Little Hell are an insignificant blip on the musical landscape. Adored by fellow musicians such as Amen and Ash, but ignored by the public at large. They play uncompromising rock and quell surprise they're all wearing black, how original, such a daring choice. With a song entitled "President Bush Can Eat Me Shit" it's quite clear this rock combo won't reach the political aspirations of System Of A Down. Their final song "Lose It Now" off their debut album is a heavier version of the kind of music that Rocket From The Crypt and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion endlessly churn out.

Despite universal adulation from the music press, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster are one dimensional Cramps styled gothic dirge. The crowd stand motionless and indifferent throughout. Plenty of energy and attitude can't disguise the fact that EMBD suck big time. If they spent less time trying to look menacing and tried to write songs which actually have a tune they might actually get somewhere.

It's nearly three years since I last saw Placebo at the Academy when they were promoting their Black Market Music album their performance was a little bit underwhelming with far too many slow reflective moments. Tonight was not just an improvement, it was a revelation. Placebo blew the roof off!!! The live sound has been beefed up with the addition of a keyboard player and extra guitarist. Up there on stage Placebo look quite comical. Brian Molko looks so tiny that he'd be refused admission to Alton Towers and this is only magnified to a ridiculous degree by standing alongside a seven foot bass player. The Austrian guitarist towers over Molko like some gentle giant. We have a scally drummer from Manchester, an American nancy boy on vocals and guitar and a camp Austrian on bass - it couldn't get more universal if you tried.

Drawing heavily from their new album "Sleeping With Ghosts" (a bad idea especially due to the risk of a phantom pregnancy), terrible joke but great album. Molko's voice has matured wonderfully like a fine wine and despite the fact he's receding makes a iconic frontman. With subtle use of electronica and the rock fuelled intensity Placebo posses they can't go wrong with the new material. Molko informs us that like his drummer he's also lost his voice, but unlike his trust tub thumper Molko had the assistance of a Mancunian doctor who had shot him up the add. I can only imagine he was referring to an injection, but it certainly did the trick as Brian's voice is in fine fettle.

A couple of oldies "Another You, Another Me" and "Without You I'm Nothing" are slipped into the set with current single "The Bitter End" which if there was any justice would have been a chart smash. Then before you know it they're off, but not for long. The goth rockers make a speedy return with "Pure Morning" until part of Brian's guitar falls off to his and our own amusement. As the old saying goes the show must go on and indeed it does. A slowed down version of "Teenage Angst" is an unexpected delight, but what really rocked me to the end was their version of Frank Blacks "Where Is My Mind". Finishing without playing "Nancy Boy" or "Bruise Pristine" left me sorely disappointed, but nit picking aside this gig was an electrifying performance from a band who should have the world at their feet.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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