Written and Photographed by Julie Ann Shaw
We all have things that we wish we could change about ourselves from when we were in high school. Huge regrets. Friendships made and lost. The wars of teenage girls tore friend groups and families apart. I am no exception. Like so many of my generation, I fell victim to the bloody gang wars led by Carson Daly between those who loved N’ SYNC and those of us with GOOD taste who fought for the Backstreet Boys. It was a dark time that we didn’t like talking about. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I discovered a group that not only shone a light on my darkened soul, and they showed me a world I never knew about. That group was Placebo, and the song that changed my life forever was “Every You Every Me” from their 1998 album Without You I’m Nothing.
Walking up the steep hill of death from the parking lot to The Greek Theater, I was reminded of the feeling I first had when I realized music had so much beauty and emotion. It was an uplifting and reassuring feeling. I could feel the stage pulling me toward it. Once inside the venue, surrounded by a sea of black clothing worn by people experiencing the same joy and excitement I was, smiles everywhere, and I knew they all felt the same way I did.
Opening the night was a unique act that was the perfect way to start this show, Cold Cave. Wesley Eisold’s solo project is described as a collage of darkwave, noise, and synthpop, and he works with several different collaborators, including Jennifer Clavin of Bleached and Mika Miko, Caralee McElroy of Xiu Xiu, and Sean Martin of Hatebreed. Cold Cave filled the stage with smoke and lights as he performed his hits “ Love Comes Close,” “Promised Land,” and “Theme From Tomorrowland.”
Before Placebo took the stage, they arranged for a short video to play politely, asking the audience to refrain from using their cell phones for photos and videos, as they wished for all people to be present at the moment for maximum connection. Also, as a way to be kind to others to want to watch the show live on stage and not through a sea of cell phone screens. If you would like to watch this short video, I am sure one of the many people in the pit by the stage who recorded this video on their cell phones has posted it online somewhere by now.
Placebo, Brian Molko (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard, harmonica, saxophone), Stefan Olsdal (bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Bill Lloyd (guitar, keyboards, bass), Angela Chan (violin, keyboards, percussion), Nick Gavrilovic (keyboards, guitar, lap steel), and Matt Lunn (drums) opened with “Forever Chemicals” and “Beautiful James” from their latest album, Never Let Me Go. They went on to play “Scene Of The Crime” from Loud Like Love, and then two more from Never Let Me Go, “Hugz,” and “Happy Birthday To The Sky.”
“Bionic” from 1996’s Placebo took me back to when I needed music like this to help me through those tough teenage years. Judging by the crowd surfing and enthusiasm from the audience, I feel that I was not the only person getting lost in the catharsis provided by this night. Since this tour is to promote their latest album, the following several songs they performed were from Never Let Me Go, “Twin Demons,” “Surrounded By Spies,” “Chemtrails,” “Sad White Reggae,” and “Try Better Next Time.”
By this part of the show, time had lost all meaning, and nothing existed outside of this outdoor theater. Tomorrow was a promise that didn’t matter as “Too Many Friends” from 2013’s Loud Like Love and “Went Missing” filled my entire body and soul.
The night continued with “For What It’s Worth” from 2009’s Battle For The Sun, “Slave To The Wage” from 2000’s Black Market Music, “Song To Say Goodbye” from 2006’s Meds, “Come Undone,” “The Bitter End” from 2003’s Sleeping With Ghosts, and the set closed with “Infra-Red.”
The night wasn’t over. The encore would make the rest of the night feel like Placebo just did an opening act for their encore. First was the most mesmerizing rendition of the Tears For Fears song “Shout.” Second, they played “Fix Yourself” from Never Let Me Go. Lastly, Placebo played a cover of Kate Bush’s hit that has been repopularized by one of the greatest shows on an internet streaming service, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).” Even though Kate Bush’s version is a beautiful and timeless classic, Placebo’s version, which they recorded for their 2003 album, Sleeping With Ghosts Special Edition, is hauntingly beautiful and unlike any version I have ever heard.