Irish Times, Feb'97
Mon, Feb 10, 1997
IT'S great when a band books gig in a small venue, then suddenly goes and has a Top Ten hit, guaranteeing maximum stuffage - and a sense of occasion - on the night.
Even if they hadn't crashed into Number 4 in the UK with Nancy Boy, the punters would probably still have crowded into Whelans on Wexford Street last Saturday night just to bask in the androgynous aura of American singer guitarist Brian Molko, the band's pretty boy head honcho.
Molko is the perfect pop icon, a boy/girl rock monster created in the alleyways behind Hollywood Boulevard, a guitar grinding glamour puss riding the knife edge of psychosis, and floating in a bubble of twisted narcissism.
A mere nancy boy he most certainly ain't.
"It's nice to be back in Dublin, the place where we recorded our album," announces Molko, before launching into Come Home, Placebo's first bitter, spitfiring pill of the evening.
The trio's approach is as straight as an arrow, Molko chopping the riffs with a fist of fury while bassist Stephan keeps the metal hammer oiled and new drummer Steve splatters the beats all over the walls.
It should have left the audience feeling dearly beheaded, but perhaps the sound crew was worried that Placebo's potent noise would blow the speakers, or maybe the sound was kept below ear bleeding point so that Molko's sore throat wouldn't be overtaxed.
Despite his ravaged larynx, Molko still managed to keep the maimed, menacing edge in his voice, and Bionic, Teenage Angst and Bruise Pristine were pleasantly punishing bursts of anguished energy.
Placebo were hot tips at last year's In The City music conference held in Dublin, and they've fulfilled their promise with panache and a dollop of mascara.
Last month the band played David Bowie's 50th birthday bash in New York, prompting comparisons between Molko and the young White Duke.
Molko's voice, however, is more Perry Farrell than Ziggy Stardust, and though I Know could be Placebo's own Rock n Roll Suicide, the music has more in common with the likes of Sonic Youth, Sugar and Dinosaur Jr, with maybe some Iggy and Velvets thrown in there too.
The heated rush of 36 Degrees is nicely contrasted by the languid, lightly scented Lady Of The Flowers, but Nancy Boy seems to bring everything to a premature, gender confusing end.
The band returns for a single encore, Molko and Stephan swapping bass and lead guitars for a furious instrumental finale.
Molko's voice must have been finally feeling the strain, but the twisted feedback got the message across ok.