What happens when half the audience, in a venue that holds over 1,800 on the floor and in plush red theatre balcony seats, decides to leave after the opening band instead of staying for the headliner? That would be the sound of Placebo bemusing in triumph.
Astoundingly, many people talked about how it seemed out of place that the veteran UK band was opening for a fairly new Los Angeles-based band at the Warfield in San Francisco (Oct. 24); concert-goers adorned in eyeliner, various body modifications and black attire stood in line in the merch and bathroom queues, seemingly focused on Brian Molko and company's performance than dancing to She Wants Revenge's "Tear You Apart."
Fortunately for the crowd, Placebo delivered to the crowd what they wanted: old and new favorites off their extensive catalog, demonstrating the power of their sound with the addition of two multi-instrumentalists to do distortion and rhythm. As each member took the stage in his rightful position, automatically most of the balcony began to stand up and sway to opening song "Infra-red," yelling the lyrics over Molko's vocals, and those on the floor starting mini circle pits.
The band stayed mostly on new material from Meds, playing "Drag Behind," "Song To Say Goodbye," and "On Top Of The World," the latter sounding astoundingly perfect in pitch, horn and guitar in tune, bass player Stefan Olsdal raising his guitar to the crowd and grinning out of pure glee. "Taste In Men" and "Every You Every Me" also garnered a raucous response out of the audience, many jumping up and down knowing those lyrics well, too. Though the guys were not of many words (Molko did ask the crowd to sing the musical tagline to "Special K" in a "very French accent, if possible"), all three of them continually looked out into the crowd and raised his hands to clap or instrument to play, thanking them for their appreciation. The mission of the night was to play for the crowd, and to play well, and that Placebo did.
The high point of the show came at the end; show closer "20 Years" suddenly struck me as being one of the most depressingly optimistic songs I've heard in a while, and it was hard not to get teary as Molko sang with emphasis and urgency, "There are 20 years to go, the faithful and the low, the best of starts, the broken heart, the stone" over the quiet, poignant guitar loop and soft electronic loops. The end of the song broke out into jam session for several minutes afterwards, the band emerging from sweat and exhaustion after their set completed to turn on the house lights and get a good look at the crowd; most of the house at this point were on their feet applauding Placebo's stellar performance, in San Francisco, since they last visited in 2003.
I alongside many others smiled as we walked outside for a cigarette; Placebo's days of playing 300 person capacity venues like Slim's may be over, but there will still be those to come and see their heroes play, despite any venue.
"Because I Want You"
"Sleeping With Ghosts"
"Song To Say Goodbye"
"Every You Every Me"
"On Top Of The World"
"Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)"
"Taste In Men"
By Jenn Hernandez