A dazzling Placebo gig which left me with only one thought on my mind: just how bloody gorgeous is Brian Molko??
In April 2003 it had been four months since my last gig, the unfathomably brilliant final night of the Manics’ Forever Delayed tour in Cardiff the previous December. I finished 2002 on a gigging high, but then, as 2003 started, I began to wonder if my music obsession days were becoming a thing of the past. In the first few months of the year, I was much more obsessed with the latest fantasy blockbusters than going to gigs. My diary entries from this time are packed with musings about wizards and hobbits, and I was much more likely to pontificate on he beauty of Elijah Wood than any of my favourite indie boys. The first CDs I bought that year were the soundtracks to the first two Lord of the Rings films, and when I ventured out of an evening, it was to plays featuring actors from my favourite films, rather than to gigs. In March, just before I turned 28, I wrote:
‘Pop is not what it once was to me. But Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are. I have not lost the capacity to be enthralled, but it’s no longer new bands that does it. It’s the weird, literary/cinematic crossover monsters of LOTR and HP that mean to me what Ride, Suede, Take That et al meant to me in the days of yore.‘
It’s clear that I was fully convinced my days of bouncing from one musical obsession to another and screaming my way through endless gigs were behind me for good, replaced by my new fantastical fixations. And I was partially right. In a couple of years, when I turned 30, Doctor Who would come back to the world, and my obsession for that would obliterate almost everything else for me, including music, for a decade.
But here in early 2003, the end of my youthful pop & indie fangirl life had not quite yet arrived. I may have started the year in a slump, but it would turn out to be one of the most glorious gigging years of my life, with some of my most incredible gigs occurring between April and December 2003.
And it all started with this dazzling gig from Placebo. But it was one very particular aspect of Placebo that really grabbed my attention this night. From my diary:
‘So much can be said in three words… “tight black t-shirt”…“Brian fucking Molko”…“Move over Elijah”…’
I may have had a few months away from gigging life, but one toe dipped back in and in true Scruffy style, I was enthusiastically ogling the pretty boys with guitars once more. The topic of Brian Molko is a running theme throughout my diary entry for this gig, but I did manage to take some time to describe the support bands first.
‘I sauntered in round 7.30 while the first support were on, Colour of Fire, and I liked them quite a bit, tuneful rocky indie ’92-style, but a bit of an edge, a suggestions of possible greatness that makes me want to explore further. The second support, 80s Matchbox B-line Disaster, were just kind of raaawk!!! and shouting, and only mildly entertaining.‘
While these bands were on I found myself a spot in second row, on the far left, ‘which my dim memory of ancient Placebo gigs told me would be Brian-side. And I was right!’
In 2003 I had six years as a Placebo fan under my belt, and while I’d always found Brian Molko appealing, I’d never quite lusted after him in the way I did some of the boys in my other fave bands like Mansun or Suede (or, more recently, certain hobbit actors). That is, until this gig came along. Brace yourselves now for some pretty hardcore Brian Molko appreciation.
“My god, what a perfect view. What a perfect man! He was always gorgeous but my god, last night he had suddenly metamorphosed into the sexiest creature I have ever been fortunate enough to stand a few metres away from. The tight black t-shirt, tight black jeans, emphasising his perfect outline, the wonderful cleanness of his shape, not overly muscled but not weedy either. Christ! I don’t think I have ever looked at a man and so objectified him.‘
Clearly I needed a moment here to fan myself and try and recall the actual music that had been played that night. I was a bit out of practice as a Placebo fan at this point. I’d loved them throughout 1997 and 1998 and thrill to their first two albums, but lost interest around the time of their third album “Black Market Music”. In 2003 however they released the fantastic “Sleeping With Ghosts” which had swiftly drawn me back into the Placebo fan fold. But it took me a little while to get into the swing of things.
‘Oh! The music. It having been a good three or so years since I was properly a Placebo fan I must admit that I could not quite remember all the lyrics, or indeed, even many song titles. Having said that, it was the new tunes from their utterly dazzling “Sleeping With Ghosts” that made up most of the highlights of the main set. Particularly “Protect Me From What I Want”. A sinister, spindly, spirally tune, Brian guitar-free, standing very close to my side of the crowd, and dancing dementedly with arms-a-flail like a spider under the cruciatus curse during the choruses.‘ Seems I couldn’t resist sneaking in a reference to my new found Harry Potter obsession there.
And at this point in my entry I clearly felt I’d gone for too long without appreciating the majesty of Brian.
‘Brian is such a star, such a proper frontperson, revelling in performance. Such a delight to see in one so bloody delectable.
Erm… the music… oh sod it!‘
But there was one other thing that was noteworthy about this gig. The last time I’d been down the front at a Placebo gig, I’d unceremoniously passed out before the band even came on. It had made me a bit wary of risking the Placebo barrier again, but this night I braved it.
‘I broke the Placebo gig curse! In that I was down the front (or near enough) the whole time and did not pass out! Did start to feel a bit shaky towards the end of the main set, spent most of “Without You I’m Nothing” with my eyes closed, trying to stay balanced, but after a break of a few minutes and they came back to the tumultuous techno intro of “Taste In Men” the renewed adrenaline surge kept me going for the rest of the gig. Oh! And “The Bitter End” was FANTASTIC!!! ‘
And that was quite enough not about Brian.
‘But Brian, though. I remembered him as a kind of prima-donna-esque egostar. Yet he was lovely! Told us we were fab and encouraged us to support various charities and protest against the war. And did I mention… the tight black t-shirt…‘
A week after the gig, and after presumably many cold showers, I found myself musing in my diary about the nature of Placebo and their place in the pantheon of my all-time favourite indie bands.
‘Placebo, though. How lucky are we to have a band like them? After six years, still the eyeliner. Still refusing to mature, “grow up” or any euphemism for losing spark and sexiness. What a breath of fresh air in this day and age when the Manics are threatening acoustic tours, Mansun are surrounded by split rumours and Suede can’t seem to hold my interest for more than ten minutes at a time.‘
And by the end of 2003, Mansun would indeed have split up, and so would Suede. The world of indie music that I’d lived and loved throughout the 90s was fragmenting and disappearing before my eyes. It’s hard to lose something that was such an important part of your life for so long, and it’s no wonder I found myself escaping to new, fantastical obsessions.
But luckily, we still had Placebo, always true to themselves and their fans, and they remain so to this day. So thank god for Placebo. And for tight black t-shirts.