LIVE REVIEW: Placebo, O2 Academy, Newcastle

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

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I’VE always been a believer that bands, and not their fans, should dictate setlists, yet Placebo’s long-awaited return to Newcastle proved a challenge to that notion.

Admittedly, there was a hefty pinch of sentiment involved.

Edgy, angst-ridden and lust-fueled, Brian Molko’s group were one of the key cogs of my early forays into music, with their 2007 appearance in Montreux still ranking among my most vivid live memories.

Throw a couple of decidedly iffy recent records into the mix, and it’s fair to say I approached Wednesday’s show at the O2 Academy with a clear sense of what I did - and, more pertinently, didn’t - want to hear.

Unfair? Yeah probably, but that’s what nostalgia does to you.

Anyway, for all their creative toils, it’s clear the continent isn’t the only place the current duo (expanded to a live six-piece) retain their pulling power, with this first North East appearance in nine years selling out well in advance.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

And yet, despite the packed crowd, the atmosphere for the most part was somewhat flat; as fans faced up to a set heavy on undistinguished, workman-like newer numbers.

It’s not that they didn’t know the songs - latest album Loud Like Love has, after all, been out for the best part of two years - but rather that the majority are average, compared with what went before.

You could almost feel relief sweep the room with the onset of Special Needs and I Know, yet even classics such as these failed to catch fire, such was the mediocrity with which they were swamped.

Indeed, it wasn’t until Song To Say Goodbye - 15 tracks in - that they finally seemed to get going, with its urgency surging through to Special K (by some way the best song of the night) and the terrific Bitter End.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

It was a flurry which ignited an otherwise disappointing night - and even that proved all too brief, as the conclusion of the main set pulled the plug on that momentum.

Even an encore of their version of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill couldn’t rescue the sense of deflation.

Rather than heading home recalling the great songs they played, I left reflecting on those they didn’t: the likes of Nancy Boy, Pure Morning, and Taste In Men.

Who knows; maybe if I’d come with no prior knowledge of their catalogue I’d have felt differently.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

Maybe I’d even have taken a semblance of enjoyment from the likes of Too Many Friends and For What It’s Worth. Maybe ... but somehow I doubt it.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

PLACEBO ... live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.