Placebo in session/concert tonight. Formerly known as Ashtray Heart, Placebo are an Indie/Alternative band started by guitarist/singer Brian Molko and guitarist/bassist Stefan Oldsdal. They first grabbed attention and prominence with the release of the debut single Nancy Boy from their self-titled debut album and courted controversy practically from the get-go.
Molko was often at the center of the controversy, because he wore dresses and make-up in public and talked openly about sex, sexuality and drug use. Not such a big deal now, but twenty years ago, when Nancy Boy was released, it raised eyebrows – even though Pop Music has gone through its fair share of Androgyny, transgender and open, even wistful discussion of wretched excess over the years, the 90s didn’t seem nearly as prudish as the Press were making themselves out to be.
Placebo utilized androgynous images and lyrical content. And to date, they’ve released seven studio albums, all of which have reached the top 20 in the UK, and have sold around 11 million records worldwide.
This session/concert, done for the Black Sessions series from Radio France International puts them still riding on the popularity of their debut album and Nancy Boy, which peaked at number 4 in UK Album Chart upon its release in January of 1997. The song had been written in 1994, being partially inspired by an infamous quote of Suede’s Brett Anderson: “I’m a bisexual man who’s never had a homosexual experience.” Its lyrics were full of sexual allusions, and Molko admitted at the time: “It’s not absurd. It’s obscene. A song this rude should not be number four in the charts.” Molko would go on to describe his relationship with the song in a 2016 interview as “very ambivalent”, adding that, although he appreciates the fact that the song had been instrumental in their development as a band, he considers it immature.
Marking twenty years since the release of their debut album, Placebo announced in June 2015 the re-release of their first five albums on 12″ coloured viny. The band kicked off their 20 Years of Placebo tour in Aarhus, Denmark. The concert was abruptly cut short, however, already two songs into the set, as Molko became incoherent and had to be removed from the stage. An official statement from the band explained that Molko had an adverse reaction to new medication. The tour continued in the next evenings without incidents, the band receiving positive reviews for their performances. During October-November 2016, the band toured Europe and Russia. Placebo’s December 2016 concerts in the UK and Ireland featured shoegaze supergroup Minor Victories as the opening act.
In March-April 2017, Placebo toured Mexico. During April-August 2017, they played a string of gigs across Europe, including appearances at Greece’s Rockwave Festival and the UK’s Latitude Festival. In September 2017, Placebo performed seven shows in Australia. In October 2017, they embarked on a tour of the UK, ending with two shows at the Brixton Academy on 23 and 24 October 2017.
Here is a reminder of what 1997 was all about for Placebo.