The Star "Future perfect", Mar'10

March 19, 2010
by Michael Cheang

This wasn’t an Air Supply nostalgia concert. Naturally, rock band Placebo chose to showcase its newer material instead – which was just fine.

FOR what it’s worth, the Placebo concert was everything frontman Brian Molko said it would be, hours before the gig – loud, energetic, passionate and emotional.

Blasting off with a triptych of arguably the best three songs from their latest albumBattle For The Sun – the snarling For What It’s Worth, the catchy, stadium-chant-friendly Ashtray Heart, and the slow-burning title track; the band was in fine form during the concert at KL Live on Tuesday night.

Fans numbering about 2,000 who were expecting to hear and sing along to old hits like Nancy Boy and Pure Morning would have been disappointed, though. The only recognisable hits they played were Every You Every Me and Special K, while the bulk of the songs in the set list were from Battle For The Sun, with a smattering of Medsand Sleeping With Ghosts thrown in.

The truth is, the band have not been playing Nancy Boy and Pure Morning live for a while now, explained Molko during an interview at the KL Hilton just hours before the gig.

“Our most popular and best-selling singles ever were Pure Morning andNancy Boy; two songs which we don’t play live anymore because we just don’t like them anymore. But if I wanted to be a careerist, we could have just made a bunch of records that sounded like those two songs which were our biggest hits, but we would be bored senseless doing that!” he said.

“It’s an aspect of what my entire life is – running away from boredom as much as possible and finding ways of keeping myself interested. I don’t want to do a show like Oasis’ – where it’s just so obvious they don’t want to be there and are bored out of their skulls!”

Formed in 1994, Placebo consists of Molko on vocals and guitars, Stefan Olsdal on bass and Steve Forrest on drums. The band has released six albums to date but is perhaps more infamously known for its openness towards sexuality, or more specifically, Molko’s androgynous image.

During our interview, however, Molko was conservatively dressed in a dapper black shirt and matching fedora. And while there was very little in the way of banter during the concert (the only time you heard Molko’s non-singing voice was after the opening number, when he said, “Hi, we’re Placebo”), he was the complete opposite during the interview – openly answering questions about their music and even throwing in a jibe at (now defunct rock band) Limp Bizkit, whom they had a feud with once (“It says in the Bible that if you argue with a fool, you become one. That’s why I don’t talk to Fred Durst!”).

Quizzed about the difference between the bleak, depressing Meds andBattle For The Sun, he said it was just an evolution of their music.

“The new album’s predecessor is always the biggest influence on the new album in terms of what we don’t want to do. Meds was a very expertly executed record, but it was also a very bleak, dark, suffocating and claustrophobic album. So we reacted against that and made something that was a lot more open and colourful, and somewhat more optimistic.”

Molko’s partner-in-arms, Olsdal, concurred. “I think we did it out of necessity. With Meds, we were in a very dark place, personally and career-wise. It was a very fraught recording process, followed by a one-and-half-year tour that almost killed us. I think the only option left was to come out of that dark hole and make our existence and attitude a more positive one,” he said.

Back at the concert, Molko and Olsdal come across as an odd, little-and-large couple – Molko’s somewhat slight frame and charismatic vibes contrasting with Olsdal’s tall stature and quiet demeanour. However, the two have a lot more in common than you think – without their song-writing partnership, there would be no Placebo.

Molko’s partnership with Olsdal is the main factor for Placebo lasting so long (the band’s current drummer Steve Forrest is actually the band’s third).

“That’s what Placebo is – the song-writing partnership between me and Stefan. If that didn’t exist, then neither of us can continue as Placebo. We’re very different people, but we complement each other in many ways, artistically and in terms of personality,” said Molko.

“The first time I saw Brian play, I was captivated and thought, ‘wow, this guy can sing, there may be something here!’” said Olsdal. “We complement each other very well – I’m good at musical theory - what chords to play and why things work, etc. And Brian doesn’t think like that at all; he thinks in a more abstract way. He would write something that would excite me and vice versa, and that would kind of fuel the song-writing process.”

Some of the newer songs that they have come up with may have been a tad unfamiliar to the crowd (thus creating a slight lull in the atmosphere), but you really can’t fault the strength and diversity of their songs. And even if it wasn’t as great a rush as screaming out loud to Every You Every Me or bouncing up and down to Special K; the atmosphere generated by the band’s playing and Molko’s sneering vocals was still something special. Even when the trio slowed things down for songs likeDevil In The Details or Follow The Cops Back Home, you couldn’t help but be caught up in the heady atmosphere of their music.

Sure, they didn’t play many of the old hits that the crowd were clamouring for (hey, if you wanted a greatest hits set, you might as well go to an Air Supply concert instead); and they certainly aren’t as karaoke-friendly as bands like Green Day, Coldplay or The Killers. But for what it’s worth, this was still a great rock concert, the sort of which every me, every you and everyone else sees too little of in Malaysia.

Source: ecentral