Placebo - Blackpool Empress Ballroom - 5.4.06

Where does the time go? It doesn't seem 11 years since I first saw Placebo perform live at The Boardwalk in Manchester supporting Whale. After releasing the singles compilation "Once More With Feeling" two years ago Placebo rested and retreated to the studio to record their next album "Meds" which sees the band return to the raw, urgency of their excellent debut. For a band who have been away for a while it's reassuring the fans haven't forgotten them.

The Empress Ballroom is heaving with bodies. It's not quite claustrophobic, but it's certainly close. When the lights go down the screams coming from the fans sound louder than those normally associated with a Westlife concert. Brian with black hair, black eyeliner and guess what, black clothes is a pint sized goth who has recently become a father, but he's not quite content for a pipe and slippers and a dad rock phase just yet. Only gargantuan bass player Stefan could wear a black jacket, no shirt but a tie and still look like a credible male fashion model. Steve on drums just looks like a normal bloke but he's a demon tub thumper behind his trusty drum kit.

Highlights of the new songs include the albums title track "Meds", "Infra Red" and "Follow The Cops Back Home" which although distinctly Placebo still sounds vibrant, dynamic and eclectic. No one quite delivers a vocal like Brian Molko with his vitriolic, snide whine in a weird American English voice which is both amusing and effective. He can knock a decent tune of two on his guitar as well. Although the bulk of the new album is performed there's still a few older tracks in store for nostalgic fans.

The hysteria when "Come Home" gets a rare outing, Brian comments that its the first time the band have played it live in eight years. "Every me Every You" is also greeted with cheers of delight and a rendition of "36 Degrees" is a pleasing, proud moment from Placebo's past.

I didn't expect a cover version for the encore, but Placebo's reading of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" from the special edition of the "Sleeping With Ghosts" album is a moody, synth heavy, slightly sinister version. For a frontman who is notoriously out spoken in interviews, tonight Molko is relatively quiet in the banter but when he finishes with the rest of Placebo with "Nancy Boy" you don't really care as the music is this good.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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