Placebo

While most contemporary pop and rock artists trip clumsily over the concept of lyrical subtlety, Placebo front man Brian Molko is among those rare performers with a firm grasp on the art of deception.

With:
Band: Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal, Steven Hewitt, Bill Lloyd.

While most contemporary pop and rock artists trip clumsily over the concept of lyrical subtlety, Placebo front man Brian Molko is among those rare performers with a firm grasp on the art of deception. At the sold-out Palace on Tuesday, singer-guitarist Molko and the U.K. trio (along with a touring fourth member) played muscular, dramatic, punk-informed rock that was built from equal parts Smashing Pumpkins, The Smiths and Rush before a rowdy crowd of misfits.

Molko’s high-toned vocals worked both with and against his angular guitar work, while the throbbing style of bassist Stef Olsdal and the power-rock approach of drummer Steve Hewitt served well the songs’ relentless sexual tension and passion.

Eighty-minute show covered many of the songs on Placebo’s latest Virgin album, “Black Market Music” (released this month in the U.S., last fall in Europe), a lusty collection that examines the darker side of human desire and frustration.

“The whole world wants my disappearance,” Molko howled during set-opening “Haemoglobin,” a cryptic tale of racism told from the victim’s point of view. “(But) I’ll go fighting nail and teeth.”

Rapper Justin Warfield (from opening band Tape) joined for an effective late-set reading of the vindictive “Spite and Malice,” which contemplates violence as a cure for social ills, followed by a set-closing run of “Black Market Music’s three U.K. singles: “Slave to the Wage,” “Special K” and “Taste in Men.”

Molko showed off his falsetto during B side “Little Mo,” while “Commercial for Levi” was the evening’s most unusual entry, combining a musical vibe not unlike a child’s lullaby (Molko played a small piano) with lyrics of seedy street sex.

The stripped-down and soaring “36 Degrees,” from Placebo’s self-named 1996 debut, was another highlight, while the frenetic infidelity tale “Black Eyed” and excellent 1998 single “Pure Morning” made for a crowd-pleasing midnight encore.

Placebo

Palace; 1,250 capacity; $17.50

Production: Presented by Goldenvoice. Reviewed May 15, 2001.

Cast: Band: Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal, Steven Hewitt, Bill Lloyd.

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