Placebo were due to play the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool until worries about the venue’s roof meant it was forced to close. Due to some last minute changes of plan, the closest similarly sized venue was the Albert Hall in Manchester. It might not be that close (proximity-wise) to Blackpool but it’s an equally impressive room.

The last minute announcement hasn’t affected the atmosphere, but Placebo crowds are nothing if not enthusiastic. Their self-titled debut all those years back in 1997 was a breath of fresh air in a landscape dominated by Britpop and grunge. Placebo were sexy, sleazy and gothy without a knack for a killer buzzsaw punk riff and a real way with words, a genuinely exciting alternative. The preceding two decades haven’t dulled their commitment to the LGBT* community or musical exploration, their more recent albums embracing influences from glam rock to electronica.

Tonight’s about their greatest hits, though, as made abundantly clear by the opening projection of their gloriously androgynous ‘Every You Every Me’ video. My friend comments that it’s like Live Aid. It’s certainly a weird way to start a gig. They’re celebrating their past, yes, but it still seems like a statement that when this tour is over they’re going to be moving on from it. When they do arrive onstage it’s to an extended intro to ‘Pure Morning’, that chiming guitar pulse ringing out around the Albert Hall and whipping up a frenzy.

It’s followed by an early ‘Loud Like Love’ which takes some of the momentum out. This is compounded by singer Brian Molko introducing themselves to the “ladies and gentlemen and those who find themselves somewhere in between” of Manchester, “the first city we had a guitar stolen in, and so far the only one”. This is followed by him asking no one to take photos or video on their phones throughout the gig, which is fair enough, but then stopping the next song not once but twice to point at people with their phones in the air lends an air of tension to proceedings.

Sleeping with Ghosts is well-represented tonight, although its title track is speeded up almost to the point of being hurried. When the distinctive top end riff kicks in, so do some serious strobes. It’s followed by another cut from that album, the haunting ‘Special Needs’, which is disjointed but heavy. They only really start to look comfortable by weepy electronic ballad ‘Twenty Years’ from 2006’s Meds. The resignation of the lyrics, “them’s the breaks for we designer fakes” swells into ‘I Know’’s lament and psychedelic visuals.

This is where they start getting into things, with a chunky version of Meds’ ‘Space Monkey’ sounding like a hit that never was and ‘Protect Me From What I Want’ greeted like a lost classic. It even stands up to the brilliant ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ that follows. The projections of David Bowie behind the band turn it into a tribute to him and the effect he had on their career by dueting on the single version of this song. The tribute air continues with ‘For What It’s Worth’ and its debt to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs era.

The end is in sight and the bangers come thick and fast. There’s not many bands who can boast a run of songs like a feedback drenched ‘Slave to the Wage’, a powerful ‘Special K’, ‘Song to Say Goodbye’’s slow burn and the brilliant ‘Bitter End’. If Molko struggles with the high notes these days, the crowd don’t.

The encore sees bassist Stefan Olsdal proudly brandishing a guitar emblazoned with the Pride rainbow for the iconic ‘Nancy Boy’, which isn’t exactly the band’s favourite song but they give it their all and it’s completely reciprocated. ‘Infra-Red’ may not be quite so important, but it’s where they clearly see their future and where they leave us. Or so half the room thinks, heading to the exits, only for a second encore of their cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. It’s a typically arch end to a night that leaves us wondering about where they go from here, after a couple of years of reliving their early work while seeming to be more comfortable playing their more recent stuff.

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Andy Vine

Like all cis-male atopic half Welshmen, I'm a big fan of shouty indie, noisy drone and the daytime Radio 1 playlist. Outside of punk rock my primary interests are tea (white no sugar please) and beer (brown no sugar please). When I'm not writing about stuff for Silent Radio I'm occasionally doing my own stuff which you can read about at if you want (you should).