NEW YORK, NY—Singer Brian Molko commented early on in the evening that it had been six years since he and bandmates of British group Placebo played an American stage. The evening was one of two performances this year for the band on U.S. soil and also happened to be part of the CMJ Festival. With their current release, Loud Like Love, filling the majority of the set, the band also had a few surprises in store for the evening.
Terminal 5 was packed and people maneuvered through the crowd during opener Jesca Hoop’s haunting sounds to find that perfect space for the night’s headliners. The balcony was full of interesting characters who seemed to know lyrics better than Molko. I had found myself situated on the back of the floor, but somehow even with the large space, I felt as though we were pulled into an intimate performance.
To build up anticipation, “Pure Morning” instrumentals fleshed out with lights pulsating on stage. Finally taking the stage like true rock stars, they started the night off with “B3.” I had been told that Placebo is a band that focuses on their new material during performances, with few older tracks thrown in. But getting a glimpse of the setlist early on, I was eager for them to reach the encore.
After the first two songs, they jumped into new material, especially with “Too Many Friends,” where Stefan Olsdal switched over to keyboard in accompanying Molko and drummer Steve Forrest, who was his own one-man show, wildly letting loose while playing. An additional bass, guitar and violinist were also present on stage throughout the night. The sound that evening was incredible, speaker system on point, and they are one of the few bands that sound better live than on recordings.
This was my first time seeing the band live and I was happy to hear the older hits included, but a little saddened when “Meds” was played with a slower tempo. A few other older tracks were slowed down, allowing the band to show off their versatility. “Special K” and “The Bitter End” were the final two tracks played before Placebo came back out for the expected encore.
The stage lights pulsed just as they had before the band first took the stage, and fans chanted for their return. They came back with a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” which perfectly displayed that distinct accent Molko has while he sings. To much delight, the night ended with “Post Blue” and “Infra-Red,” both staying true to their original forms. The night felt a little short, with so much more material that could have been played. But it left room for a proper tour hopefully in the new year.