Placebo
"December 13, 2003"

Theatre of Living Arts
Philadelphia, PA, USA

It would appear Brian Molko has done some growing up. Placebo's singer/guitarist who was once writing lyrics like "alcoholic kind of mood/lose my clothes, lose my lube" ("Nancy Boy" from the band's 1996 self-titled debut) has made a transformation that is easily seen on the band's most recent effort, "Sleeping With Ghosts." Gone are the obscenities, the gender bending and the drugs. But while the band are different lyrically as well as instrumentally -- the new album offered a more electronic sound -- the band's performance is not as assured. Placebo's last two performances in Philadelphia were on opposite ends of the scale: 2001 saw Molko on stage verbally abusing a concert-goer with a video camera while in July 2003 the entire band was in good spirits.

With this Philadelphia date one of three final US shows of a nearly nonstop eight month world tour, Placebo were visibly tired throughout their sold out performance. Opening with "Bulletproof Cupid," which sounded as tight as the album version, the band hit some old favorites before playing a number of tracks from the band's last two albums. Molko said very little throughout the night in between songs, but did, however, introduce the energetic "The Bitter End" by remarking that after all the "harder faster" of "Bionic" comes "The Bitter End."

The band seemed to have an excellent handle on songs from "Sleeping With Ghosts" as "I'll Be Yours" had a mellow guitar feel with smooth vocals and "Sleeping With Ghosts" had extra power from a full bass sound. Molko fumbled with a seemingly useless electronic toy during the pulsing and catchy electronic hit "English Summer Rain" before dropping to his knees dramatically during the vocals. But it was old favorites like "Special K," "Taste In Men," "Slave to the Wage," and, especially, "Pure Morning" that got the biggest crowd reaction. The band closed out the evening with a well received cover of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind."

Once shy bassist Stefan Olsdal made it more into "The Stefan Show" as he solicited the crowd to clap along or danced, occasionally at center stage with his back to the audience and his butt shaking -- one fan even propositioned Olsdal during a song with some obvious hand gestures. Seeming content to let Olsdal have the stage, Molko still knew how to work the crowd in his own way -- emphasizing "fuck the government" in "Sleeping With Ghosts" and gesturing for screams during "Special Needs."

While the songs still had their energy the band did not, and the songs sometimes missed that little something extra. But with a long set list, Placebo was not overly obvious with weariness, looking to still put all their effort in to each song and never disappointing. Many of the fans were happy just to see the band back in America and the band appeared content to just play their songs.

Setlist: Bulletproof Cupid, Allergic, Every You Every Me, Bionic, Plasticine, The Bitter End, Sleeping With Ghosts, Black-Eyed, I'll Be Yours, Special Needs, English Summer Rain, Without You I'm Nothing, This Picture, Special K

Encore: Taste In Men, Slave to the Wage, Pure Morning, Where Is My Mind