After quite a long break, Placebo became frequent visitors to the capital of Finland. In 2009, the Finns were lucky to see the band twice, first at Provinssirock in the summer and the second time on the 15th of November at the Helsinki Ice Hall (Jäähalli).
Before the concert started, we were entertained by strange short movies and cartoons shown on the screens. The movies that the band shortlisted and brought with them on tour are a part of the ShortsTV Live Movie Festival. If nothing else, it was something different compared to the usual boredom of waiting for the band to come out.
Finally, at some point the lights went off and an image of a solar eclipse was projected on the white curtain on the stage, accompanied by singing that sounded like a piece in the middle of “Speak in Tongues.” All of it gave the impression that something grand was about to happen and you should to hold your breath not to miss the moment.
And the moment came once the curtain was taken away! Placebo kicked things into overdrive with “For What it’s Worth,” blinding everyone with bright stage lights, and the song proved to be a great opening track. The whole concert had heavy visual support: a huge background screen, two stage screens on the sides, and two screens on top. Each of them variously showed either the footage of the band during the gig or different images specifically chosen for every song. For example, “For What it’s Worth” started with a close up of Molko’s face on the background screen and images of a megalopolis on the side screens, all of it later being replaced with an x-ray of a hand and so on.
Placebo’s surprising yet pleasant addition on drums – Steve Forrest – was quite a distraction to watch on the big screens. Being young and already so professional, the drummer perfectly fits within the band’s overall image. He is an inspiring visual stimulator for those who do not share adoration of Brian Molko’s dark and mysterious metrosexual looks.
Yet nothing and nobody can outshine Molko’s genius. After so many years on stage, he can’t be accused of being usual, predictable, or boring. His music is the type of art that is rarely recognized so widely during the artist’s life. Not everyone understands or shares it, but one thing is clear – it is outstanding and exquisite.
Placebo played songs from their latest Battle for the Sun album: “Ashtray Heart,” “Speak in Tongues,” “Breathe Underwater,” as well as old compositions that made the band’s history: “Meds,” “Special Needs,” and “Song to Say Goodbye.” They performed a faster and more upbeat version of my favorite, “Every You Every Me.” I can imagine the guys are tired of playing the original version of the song year after year, so some improvisation is necessary. However, it would’ve been nicer to listen to the same song that used to warm up your heart during the cold times.
Despite all the bright lights and background videos, nothing could take away the shining of guitarist’s Stefan Olsdal’s silver pants. They were fascinating and hypnotizing. Every time he came into the view, those pants owned my attention.
The band did two encores. After the first one, most of the Finnish public, not being used to big bands being so encore-friendly, started to leave. The second encore was played in quite an empty venue, but it didn’t spoil anything. Placebo ended their show in Helsinki with “Infra-red” and “Taste in Men.” All the way through the last song, the background screen showed a shaking close-up image of a blonde woman, which gave a rather intense flavor to the performance. Those who left after the first encore surely lost their battle for the sun.
In my opinion, Placebo is one of the most beautiful band names. Even though knowing the right definition of the word, it still leaves you uncertain of what you can expect from it. The band personifies their name in their performances, giving the audience the same feeling that something unknown may have a wonderful effect on you.
1. For What It’s Worth
2. Ashtray Heart
3. Battle for the Sun
5. Speak in Tongues
6. Follow the Cops Back Home
7. Every You Every Me
8. Special Needs
9. Breathe Underwater
10. Because I Want You
11. Twenty Years
13. The Never-Ending Why
15. Devil in the Details
17. Song to Say Goodbye
18. Bright Lights
19. Special K
20. The Bitter End
22. Taste in Men
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Jana Blomqvist | Ed: Amy Wiseman