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PLACEBO - Helsinki Ice Hall, 15.11.2009

Placebo’s battle for the Sun against the Finnish kaamos*


Gallery link: Placebo

After quite a long break Placebo became frequent visitors to the capital of Finland. In the year 2009 Finns were lucky to see the band twice, first at Provinssirock in summer and the 2nd time on the 15th of November at Helsinki Ice Hall.

Before the concert started we were entertained by strange short movies and cartoons shown on the screens. The movies that the band shortlisted and brought with them on tour, are a part of ShortsTV Live Movie Festival. If nothing else, it was something different compared to the usual boring waiting for the band to come out.

Finally at some point the lights went off and an image of the sun eclipse was projected on the white curtain on the stage, accompanied by singing that sounded like a piece in the middle of ‘Speak In Tongues’. All of it gave a feeling that something grand is about to happen and you need to hold your breath not to miss the moment.

And the moment came once the curtain was taken off. Placebo kicked in with ‘For What It’s Worth’, blinding everyone with bright stage lights, and the song proved to be a great opening act. The whole concert had a heavy visual support: a huge background screen, two stage screens on the sides and two screens on top. Each of them variously showed either the footage of the band during the gig or different images specifically for every song. For example, ‘For What It’s Worth’ started with a close up of Molko’s face on the background screen and images of a megapolis on the side screens, all of it later being replaced with an x-ray of a hand and so on.

Placebo’s surprising yet pleasant addition on drums – Steve Forrest – was quite a distraction to watch on the big screens. Being young and already so professional the drummer perfectly fits within the band’s overall image. He is an inspiring visual stimulation for those who do not share the adoration for Brian Molko’s dark and mysterious metrosexual looks.

Yet nothing and nobody can outshine Molko’s genius. After so many years on stage he can’t be accused of being usual, predictable or boring. His music is that type of art which is rarely recognized so widely during the artist’s life. Not everyone understands or shares it, but one thing is clear – it is outstanding and exquisite.

Placebo played songs from their latest ‘Battle For The Sun’ album: ‘Ashtray Heart’, ‘Speak In Tongues’, ‘Breathe Underwater’, as well as old compositions that made the band’s history: ‘Meds’, ‘Special Needs’, ‘Song To Say Goodbye’. They performed a faster and more upbeat version of my favourite ‘Every You Every Me’. I can imagine the guys are tired of playing the original version of the song year to year, so some improvisation is necessary, yet it would’ve been better to listen to the same song that used to warm up your heart during the cold times.

Despite all the bright lights and background videos, nothing could take away the shining of guitarist’s Stefan Olsdal’s silver pants. They were fascinating and hypnotizing. Every time he came into the view, those pants owned my attention span.

The band did two encores. After the first one, most of the Finnish public, not being used to big bands being so encore-friendly, started to leave. The second encore was played in quite an empty venue, but it didn’t spoil anything. Placebo ended their show in Helsinki with ‘Infra-red’ and ‘Taste In Men’. All the way through the last song the background screen showed a shaking close up image of a blonde woman, which gave a rather intense flavor to the performance. Those, who left after the first encore, surely lost their battle for the sun.

In my opinion Placebo is one of the most beautiful band names. Even though knowing the right definition of the word, it still leaves you uncertain of what you can expect from it. The band personifies the name in their performances, giving the audience the same feeling of something unawares beautiful that might get you sedated.

* Kaamos – the Finnish word for polar night


Report: Tanja C. | Pictures: Jana Blomqvist

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