Live Review: Placebo, Deaf Havana

9 September 2017 | 12:30 pm | Tobias Handke

"Placebo might be getting on but they’ve lost none of their mystique."

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English rockers Deaf Havana are on early but you wouldn’t know it by the large turnout and vigour in their performance.

Best described as alternative rock with splashes of '90s post-grunge, Deaf Havana serenade with tight musicianship, melodic hooks and James Veck-Gilodi’s versatile vocals.

Having cancelled their Perth show and bravely battled through their Adelaide leg of the tour after frontman Brian Molko came down with illness, questions remain whether Placebo can produce the goods with their headline Melbourne show. Thankfully, any fears are quickly alleviated with a brilliant and captivating performance from the London mainstays. A montage of tour footage shot over the band's 20 years follows the screening of film clip Every You Every Me. The droning guitar riff of Pure Morning signals the bands arrival as they finally appear, Molko receiving an appreciative roar from the crowd as he utters the song's famous first line, “A friend in need’s a friend indeed.”

“We are Placebo from London and welcome to our birthday party,” Molko warmly states, going on to explain he has a case of tonsillitis. Thanking the Australian doctors who have helped him recover, Molko is more than happy to let the music do the talking for the next 90 odd minutes. Soulmates, Jesus’ Son, the anthemic Devil In The Details and cathartic Special Needs are just some of the highlights spanning their two-decade career. Stefan Olsdal swaps his guitar and bass for the keyboard during the downbeat Too Many Friends and Twenty Years before I Know raises the energy levels once again. Despite the bout of tonsillitis, Molko’s distinct nasally voice is largely unaffected during the evening as he hits all the right notes during For What It’s Worth and the David Bowie tribute Without You I’m Nothing. Special K is a crowd-pleaser, with people throwing their arms in the air as Song To Say Goodbye and the boisterous The Bitter End bring things to an end.

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The encore is inevitable but what occurs isn’t, and has the crowd cheering loudly. Olsdal’s guitar is plastered with the rainbow flag as the tall Swede takes to the microphone to proclaim Placebo “stand with you in your fight for tolerance". Olsdal leads the crowd in a chant of “fuck you” in response to Margaret Court, making it clear where they stand on the issue of marriage equality. Placebo continue the good vibes with renditions of Nancy Boy and Infra-red before a final encore of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) brings the house down.

Placebo might be getting on but they’ve lost none of their mystique over an enduring career best summed up by one punter’s enthusiastic call to arms: “Placebo rock.”