Placebo shows it can have a lasting effect

Every decade’s alienated youth has its heroes. The ’70s had Bowie. The ’80s had Morrisey and the Smiths. With performances like the one March 27 at the 9:30 Club, Placebo showed why it has what it takes to be anti-heroes for the ’90s.

The house lights dimmed. The band came out to a roar of applause – Steve Hewitt, the drummer; Stefan Olsdal, anorexia poster-boy bassist; and then Brian Molko himself. He no longer looks like a pretty little girl, having shed the transexual look that helped him and the band gain attention. Instead, he and the rest of the band members have opted for the classic glam look: lipstick, eye shadow and plenty of tight shiny clothing.

However, Placebo is more than leather pants and mascara. Taking the stage, the band set the energy level for the show with a blistering rendition of “Afraid of Girls.” A bit of a snag occurred as the band started the second song, when Brain had to stop the song to tell his younger female fans not to throw things on stage. Placebo’s hourlong set consisted of almost every fast song from the band’s two albums, including great songs such as “Every You Every Me” and “You Don’t Care About Us.”

It came as a surprise that the band took close to half of its set from its self-titled debut album, since it only sold about 1,000 copies in the United States. Still, the band gave fans who knew its work only from its second album a treat with great songs such as “Nancy Boy,” “36 Degrees” and “Bionic.” The shocker of the evening was the band’s choice of the slow song “Lady of the Flowers” from its first album. Although it’s one of the weaker tracks on the album, the band turned it into a gem on stage.

Molko and the boys also showed they had the attitude as well as the skill to be rock stars. Olsdal played his bass so lewdly at times, it should have been a crime. Molko preened and pranced around stage in perfect Mick Jagger mode, playing it up for the crowd. They wanted attention and made sure they got it. They acted like rock stars should – giving a well needed shot of glitz and glamour in these dull grunge-rock days.

The only problem with the Placebo show was its brevity. Many great songs were left out. But it’s a great concert when that’s the only complaint.

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