PLACEBO + CRUEL HEARTS CLUB- BRIGHTON CENTRE 19.11.22
Placebo, who are Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal, this evening made a welcome return to the Brighton Centre having last played there back on 14th December 2016. Tonight is by my reckoning is their fourth appearance in Brighton, with the first two being at the Concorde 2 on 9th March 2003 and before that at the Event II (now PRYZM) on 24th October 2000.
Over the course of 28 years, and over 13 million album sales, Placebo have shown themselves to be masters at cataloguing the human condition. The band’s unique way of examining both its flaws and beauty has for a long time made them a refuge for those who felt that the trappings of tradition, and the mainstream, were exactly that – a trap. Placebo continue to shine a light on the aspects of our society that are all too often viewed by some with scepticism at best, and hatred at worst.
Placebo’s new release ‘Shout’ is a fitting follow-on from their latest album ‘Never Let Me Go’ which dropped on 25th March. ‘Shout’ is a cover of the iconic Tears For Fears single which was taken from their ‘Songs From The Big Chair’ album, which peaked at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985. ‘Shout’ joins a rich lineage of Placebo cover versions of songs from the 80s which includes Sinead O’Connor (‘Jackie’), The Smiths (‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’), The Pixies (‘Where Is My Mind?’) and most famously of all – Kate Bush (‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’).
In this latest Placebo interpretation, ‘Shout’ becomes a brooding industrial march. Given that the single’s original songwriter Roland Orzabal has said that ‘Shout’ concerns itself with political protest, it also makes for a fitting follow-on from ‘Never Let Me Go’, which marked itself out with commentary on tech-saturation, rising intolerance and the climate crisis.
‘Never Let Me Go’ is Placebo’s eighth studio album and amazingly has climbed higher up the UK Album Charts than any of its predecessors, although I strongly suspect that general overall album sales have been much higher in previous years. This latest platter peaked at No.3 and all of the previous seven albums sat between slots five to thirteen. Thus, Placebo are a highly successful band and it’s no wonder that they are still able to play live in Brighton’s largest dedicated concert venue.
First up though, it was the turn of Cruel Hearts Club who the Brighton & Hove News Music Team have previously witnessed live on a couple of occasions, the first of those was here at the Brighton Centre when they were supporting The Libertines , which was on 26th November 2021 – Review HERE and the second was supporting Glasvegas at Chalk on 8th February this year – Review HERE.
Cruel Hearts Club are a trio of “working mums” consisting of the Langley sisters, who are blond haired Edie on vocals and Fender guitar, with darker haired Gita on vocals and Fender Mustang bass, along with Gabi Woo on the drums. The elder of the two sisters, Gita, grew up on a commune in Norfolk, but the family relocated to a more conventional life in Derbyshire by the time Edie was born.
It was pleasing to see so many fans in situ for the beginning of the Cruel Hearts Club 32 minute, nine song set, which ran from 7:56pm until 8:28pm. And the crowd was behind them too! I’m sure the three ladies were rather chuffed with the Brighton crowd.
The trio have been busy over the past couple of years having dropped several singles, ‘Hey Compadre’ (2019), ‘Suck It Up’ (2020), ‘Blame Me Too’ (2020), and ‘Dirty Rotten Scum’ (2020). These were followed last year by their debut 4-tune EP ‘Trash Love’ which contained ‘Sink This Low’, ‘Animal’, ‘Dirty Rotten Scum’ and ‘Where Has The Summer Gone?’. This year has seen ‘Animal’ become a single as well. And that in essence is virtually tonight’s set.
They opened their twangy slurred guitar rock with ‘Sink This Low’ and ‘Blame Me Too’, but tune three, ‘Turn Me On’, certainly upped their game and was the best thus far. The lighting for their set was decent for a support act with 10 light orange spotlights beaming down from the rigging above them, with 5 purple lights behind those. I’m sure the three photographers here this evening were pleased with this.
‘Animal’ followed and that was good too. Next up was their rendition of the T.A.T.U. No.1 smash hit ‘All The Things She Said’. It was OK but not as good as the preceding tune as well as the following number ‘Dirty Rotten Scum’ which was nice and bouncy and quite possibly their best number of the night.
Having got the crowd whipped up, they suddenly decided to drastically slow the mood with ‘Where Has The Summer Gone?’, which is a ballad that saw Edie transfer her guitar to her sister Gita, whilst Edie showed off the power of her voice. The sisters harmonies on other numbers do sound very similar, almost like a multitrack vocal.
They ended their nine tune set with the two songs found on their 2020 pink 7” single, ‘Suck It Up’ (cue handclaps!) and ‘Hey Compadre’. I reckon they went down rather well this evening!
Cruel Hearts Club:
Edie Langley – vocals, bass
Gita Langley – vocals, guitar
Gabi Woo – drums
Cruel Hearts setlist:
‘Sink This Low’
‘Blame Me Too’
‘Turn Me On’
‘All The Things She Said’ (T.A.T.U. cover)
‘Dirty Rotten Scum’
‘Where Has The Summer Gone?’
‘Suck It Up’
Placebo which incidentally means “I shall please” in Latin, issued a statement prior to their concert which reads thus:
“Dear Placebo fans, We would like to kindly ask you NOT to spend the concert filming or taking photos with your mobile phones. It makes Placebo’s performance so much more difficult. More difficult to connect with you and to communicate effectively the emotions of the songs. It is also disrespectful to your fellow concert-goers who want to watch the show, not the back of your phone. Please be here and now in the present and enjoy the moment. Because this exact moment will never ever happen again. Our purpose is to create communion & transcendence. Please help us on our mission. With respect and love. Peace. Brian and Stefan”
Would fans honour their request? Let’s find out………….
Tonight is night two of their thirteen date UK tour. They were in action last night at the 2,500 capacity Portsmouth Guildhall, but this evening is another level, with the Brighton Centre’s full capacity being 4,500. Just prior to tonight’s event, there were still tickets available for purchase, but it is still an impressive turnout. After Brighton their tour heads on off to Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, London, Leicester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cambridge and Birmingham.
It’s fair to say that this new tour is very much about the new ‘Never Let Me Go’ platter as tonight they played no less than eleven of the thirteen tracks contained on this latest album, but I guess that this was to be expected as it is their first album in nine years!
They graced the Brighton Centre stage exactly as planned at 9pm and they opened with a couple of numbers from the album, namely ‘Forever Chemicals’ and ‘Beautiful James’, the latter being the lead single from last year and their first output for five years. The punters this evening were surprisingly a mixture of ages and styles.
As a live unit there were six of them on stage this evening. Frontman Brian Molko was as always taking care of lead vocals as well as continually swapping his red Fender guitar with another guitar. He certainly has the look that Hugo (“Well Mr Anderson”) Weaving had as “V” in ‘V For Vendetta’ as well as an Adam Ant vibe going on. His partner in crime was the loftier Stefan Olsdal on Gibson Victory bass and latterly piano. He was sporting a Tintin haircut which made him look even taller. They were backed by four musicians who were introduced but I didn’t catch all of the names, but I strongly suspect they were; stage right (our left) Angela Chan on keyboards, violin and backing vocals; to her left was Matt Lunn on drums and percussion; and then came Nick Gavrilovic on guitar; and finally Bill Lloyd on guitar, bass and keyboards.
I have already noted that some folks simply couldn’t help themselves and a few were sneaking a few shots of the band with their mobile phones, which I guess is human nature really. We were positioned in the balcony and so I found myself looking for people down below who were on their phones. It wasn’t difficult as my eyes were being drawn to them by the “show control” team who were dotted all over the venue. This was because they were calling out each individual by shining a bright torch onto them which was at first solid white light and then it changed to a high speed flash! I must convey that for me and no doubt a majority of those fans sitting upstairs would have arguably found these torches were much more off putting than peoples mobile phones! At times I couldn’t concentrate on the music as I was watching the “show control” team, wave their torches at someone taking a photo or filming the gig, and then watching another member of the “show control” team make their way to the culprit and give them an ear bashing. The whole exercise was counterproductive and one I don’t really wish to witness in the future! However, having said that, it was nice to see folk “in the room” living for the moment which is what Placebo were trying to achieve.
The lighting was good as you would expect for a concert of this size, with 12 separate tall screens behind the musicians and in between them were nine rows of four rotating lights. The sound was good as well and the control desks at the rear of the venue had a number of screens going on, each quietly doing their job. Bundle all that equipment together and it fits in their three large transporter lorries. They have two long tour coaches as well, so quite an entourage then.
I noted Brian was quite a fan of thumping his guitars at the end of some of the tunes which added an extra effect and was sounding great. I was also impressed at the speed of delivery of each number. By that I mean the gaps in between tunes, which were probably on average a mere five seconds! We’re not talking Ramones here, but for this style of outfit it is impressive! Speaking of style, during their performance this evening, my friend asked me what their exact style was. Now this is a tricky question, as down the years to me they have been based in and touched a varying number of different genres, such as industrial, goth, alternative rock and even elements of glam rock, but I guess Placebo are well….Placebo!
The tunes were flying by at an alarming rate, ‘Scene Of The Crime’, ‘Hugz’ and ‘Happy Birthday In The Sky’ flew by. Then arrived ‘Bionic’, which was the oldest self-penned composition of the night; it can be found on their debut self-titled album. This got the biggest cheer so far. Half a dozen numbers from the current ‘Never Let Me Go’ LP were given an outing next, plus ‘Too Many Friends’ from 2013 ‘Loud Like Love’ album, but all of these were eclipsed by the punkish guitar and drums led ‘For What It’s Worth’ (from 2009 ‘Battle For The Sun’ album). On reflection, this was my favourite tune of theirs of the night. Mind you, a couple of songs on and we were given ‘The Bitter End’ (from 2003 ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’ album) which was nearly as good, with its repeated “See you at the bitter end” chorus.
‘Infra-Red’ followed and then the sextet left the stage for a few minutes but they returned to play a trio of tunes, two of which were covers. The first of these being the 2022 single ‘Shout’, which as I said earlier was penned by Tears For Fears. I honestly felt that the call to arms lyrics “Shout, shout, let it all out; These are the things I can do without; Come on, I’m talking to you, come on” were the most sung along by the crowd! Hmmm I wonder what this signifies?
The eleventh tune of the night from the new album was performed next, namely ‘Fix Yourself’. The second part of this is quite anthemic, so I could see why that was put there on the running order. They concluded with their 2007 single ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’, which courtesy of its link with the ‘Stranger Things’ TV series finally hit the UK Singles top spot for its owner Kate Bush a few months back. Tonight’s version was extended via a lengthy distortion ending. The 103 minute set concluded at 10:43pm.
This was my first live encounter with the band and they didn’t play my fave tune of theirs 1998’s ‘Pure Morning’, or even the previous year’s ‘Nancy Boy’ single. I should have gone to see them perform here six years ago as both tunes were played back then. Therefore, I suspect that I would have enjoyed them more in 2016 than I did this evening.
Brian Molko – lead vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, harmonica, saxophone, percussion (1994–present)
Stefan Olsdal – bass, guitars, keyboards, backing vocals (1994–present)
Along with current touring musicians:
Bill Lloyd – guitar, bass, keyboards (1996, 1998–present)
Nick Gavrilovic – keyboards, guitar, lap steel guitar, backing vocals (2008–present)
Matt Lunn – drums, percussion (2015–present)
Angela Chan – violin, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals (2017–present)
‘Forever Chemicals’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Beautiful James’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Scene Of The Crime’ (from 2013 ‘Loud Like Love’ album)
‘Hugz’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Happy Birthday In The Sky’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Bionic’ (from 1996 ‘Placebo’ album)
‘Twin Demons’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Surrounded By Spies’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Chemtrails’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Sad White Reggae’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Try Better Next Time’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Too Many Friends’ (from 2013 ‘Loud Like Love’ album)
‘Went Missing’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘For What It’s Worth’ (from 2009 ‘Battle For The Sun’ album)
‘Slave To The Wage’ (from 2000 ‘Black Market Music’ album)
‘Song To Say Goodbye’ (from 2006 ‘Meds’ album)
‘The Bitter End’ (from 2003 ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’ album)
‘Infra-Red’ (from 2006 ‘Meds’ album)
‘Shout’ (Tears For Fears cover) (from 2022 ‘Shout’ single)
‘Fix Yourself’ (from 2022 ‘Never Let Me Go’ album)
‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ (Kate Bush cover) (from 2003 ‘Covers’ compilation album)