The Cure frontman, Robert Smith, has put together one of the most remarkable line-ups for this year’s Meltdown festival. Pulling together numerous friends and collaborators, the series of gigs is a who’s who of the most dark, depressed and despondent bands of the last 30 years. Often othered, mainly outsiders, but always heard, laying the foundations and support for those that don’t quite fit. A black heart to match the brutalist concrete exterior of the Southbank Centre.
The second night of the festival was Placebo’s chance to show their hand. Opening with ‘Pure Morning’ they showed just how good the Royal Festival Hall can be even with the fixed seating. Sharp cymbals, punchy drums, muscular guitars, a deep bass and Brian Molko’s voice cutting through, all defined and clear.
Dedicating ‘Loud like love’ to the “ladies, gentlemen and the others in-between”, the only interaction from Brian not in a song, heightens just how pivotal Placebo’s music was at the end of the 90’s in pushing the boundaries. While he’s moved on from the androgyny its clear the recognition means as much to the audience now as it did then. The next song to really impact was the stark ’20 years’. The repeated refrains jar against each other and blend verse and chorus into each other. Whether it has any added meaning to the band on their 20th anniversary shows I cant say..but it stands out in the middle of the show.
The finale brings a Cure cover ‘Lets go to bed’ and it sounds like Placebo could have written it. The cynicism and borderline nonsensical lyrics fit perfectly with their other tunes. Uplifting and adolescent. While the audience can't be stopped from cheering in the extended pause before the ‘Running up the hill’ finish, it's clear that most of them have been fans from the beginning and will always hold the rose.
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Robert Smith's Meltdown 2018 review