Astoria gig

NME, 2003

Placebo: London Charing Cross Road Astoria

by Mark Beaumont

Bottom line: we don't deserve Placebo. Oh yes, our cool-for-ten-minutes blip-scene system has helped make the UK the centre of the known rock universe and NME its pulsing focal point, but we've gone one bald joke too far when the best British rock band for a decade gets sneered at simply because the singer pissed off a couple of journalists once. As the U2 of mainland Europe (Number One in France, bigger than sternness in Germany), Brian Molko could be having his danglies dingled by any number of Stalinist eurostadiums tonight. Instead, he's unraveling his intoxicatingly personal new album - and Placebo's best to date - 'Sleeping With Ghosts' in a venue the size of his regular Portuguese dressing room. Really, he's doing us a favour.

Fired by a critic-defying determination (although the average stage-diving age of thirteen is critic-defying enough), Placebo pummel the marrow out of new tracks like 'The Bitter End' and 'Second Sight' with grins like fat US oil barons on their faces. And when the new album barrage gives way to the botoxed Blondie of 'Special K', 'Taste In Men' or the spectacular finale of the Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind', well... it's enough to make you take up a shitty stick and beat The Datsuns right back to the Auckland Zep & Firkin. The bitter end? Only in your bitter heart...