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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:25 pm 
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Placebo and Lacrimosa - 3/8/2009 and 6/8/2009 - by Nick the Bookman

Part 1: 3/8/2009.

It's been a bit quiet on the Concert Front for me recently. Just like waiting for a bus. It takes ages and then several come at once. Anyway, I've managed a twofer this month. Two bands who are making return visits under the radar. I missed their HK debuts because I didn't know where to get tickets/found out the day after. Not this time. Let's start with Placebo.

There's been a history of power trios over the decades. The Teddy Wilson Trio (from the 30's through the 70's). They played piano driven snooth jazz. I saw them once at City Hall in the 70's. Made a change from my usual rockers diet. More recently (and by no means all inclusive) there were Budgie (Welsh rockers of early 70's), Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (overlapping timeframe). The mighty bearded ZZ Top who've been playing for nigh on 40 years. The Jam (late 70's) and currently The Young Knives (of Clockenflap's Cyberport show in January 2008) and Keane (who made their HK debut on 11/8/2009). And of course Placebo who are sort of alternative rock-cum-The Cure/Gothlight. The venue was the Star Hall at HITEC (where I saw Incubus last year). It's a good venue. Cheap seats upstairs in a sort of minstrel's gallery arrangement. Richer fans crowd downstairs in two sections. The drinkers further back and the moshing freakers up front. The crowd is about 90% + Chinese with European/American fans making up the difference. Hope you enjoyed the show Simon. I was looking to spot you, but I guess you were downstairs. The rule of thumb is when tyhe show starts, everyone upstairs moves forward. I got a good seat front row, top left gallery, looking down on the stage. Credit to the security staff for not going all steroid-Nazi and forcing everyone to sit down and behave. The best gigs are the one price standing tickets so people can intermingle without colliding with the dreaded unpadded crash barriers. Like the recent Nine Inch Nails show, Or Kraftwerk. Or the upcoming show by Underworld on 30th of September.

Most of the people here tonight appear to be fans of the opening act, the local band Mr. The show is meant to start at 2000 hours, but Mr. don't appear until about 2010. I think they'll do a 5-song set (and they do). They're a quintet and play for about half an hour. The line-up is vox/bass/two guitars/drums. A bit plodding to start. Some mid-tempo rock, augmented with flashes of stoner 70's glam riffs. There are two power ballads. One song is in English. They're slightly more confident than ragged in their performance, but this is obviously their most prestigious gig to date. Probably friends with the promoters. The final tune is a corker. Spacy/echo drums propelled along by a powerful bass. The twin guitars give their FX pedals a right working over. They sound a bit like Peter Murphy (ex-Bauhaus) with some not quite prime David Bowie and hints of early prog Genesis. They finish to warm applause.

The MAD CREW roadies are preparing for Placebo. They like music while they work and the computer selections include "Jump" by Van Halen, "Back In Black" by AC/DC and "No One Knows" by Queens Of The Stone Age. The leftfield choice that follows is "Crazy Horses" by the Osmonds with the shrieking synth/tone generator riff. An unexpected pleasure and I find myself nodding along with a rictus grin. Finally, the incomparable "Baba O'Riley" from The Who which is always a pleasure to hear. It also means that if Placebo deliver a performance that defines their name, the evening isn't a total loss for me.

"Good evening. We're Placebo from London, England. We come in peace" says lead singer.guitarist Brian Molko while flashing double V-for victory signs at the adoring crowd. The first shock is that there are SIX people on stage. Five gents and a lady. The orginal trio of Brian, new drummer Freddie and The Other One (whose name I've forgotten) on bass. The extra trio are two more guitarists and the lovely blonde lady on keyboards and occasional electric violin. I'm sorry I don't know their names, but they were never introduced during the show. Placebo are touring their latest LP/CD (available at most good music stores. They'll play about 20 songs tonight, drawing heavily on their last couple of releases plus a few forays down memory lane. Brian Molko used to be among the palest men in rock and somewhat malnutritioned in appearance. Tonight, he appears quite healthy. Dressed in black trousers, black waistcoat and white t-shirt. Hair pulled back in a simple ponytail, Part Michael Jackson and part Francis Rossi (Status Quo) look-alike. He commands attention as a good frontman should.

One early song sounds like it's been recorded through an echo chamber, but hasn't. He's singing "I-I-I- (something) in-in-in-the-the-the-dirt-dirt-dirt" (etc) and keeps it up the whole song. One way to get around writing lengthy verses. The keyboards and other guitars play the melody in like fashion. Other early tunes include something about "staring down the barrel of a gun" and "future lives in past lives" I can see why there are similarities to the Cure although their set doesn't range as far and wide as the Cure's recent HK performance. Still, there are metal chords and power riffs. Insistent , yet understated bass. Moments of aching pastoral beauty from the keyboards backed by melancholic violin. Placebo are also happy to fly the freak flag high with rare maelstroms of noise erupting now and then. Guitar FX that sounds like seagulls and whale sonar. Violin passages caressed with groovy feedback. Freddie is a particularly uninhibited drummer. He has enough energy to give all four Red Hot Chili Peppers a good work out. He crashes around his kit like a squid on steroids. Then he rattles out beats and fills with military precision before slowing to a funereal pace. A later Buddhist-inspired song called "Neverending One" is vintage Nazareth. Another channels Hawkwind's patented space rock rhythms. Anyway, you get the idea.

A young man called Jim who spent some time on Lamma a few years ago has come up to say hello. He's a big fan, but he missed the debut show (where Brian say's he passed out at one point) because he also didn't know it was happening. He's in a cuddlesome mood tonight and I have to say several times that I don't really want to go out for a drink after the show because I'll miss the ferry home.

We end up on separate mini-buses back to Central... Anyway, this gig was a blast. I liked the band more than I thought I would. If you're familiar with any of their nine or so releases, you'll enjoy the new one. Interested musical virgins could also do a lot worse. If they return to HK, I'll be there to cheer them on. I might even know the names of some of the songs by I hope I can still score a ticket for Lacrimosa.

Part 2: 6/8/2009.

I found out about Lacrimosa's return visit by accident. A brief squib in BC Magazine ( who are sometimes better than the SCMP's Thursday gig guide) said they're appearing at HITEC on 6/8/2009. Great. Gives me two days to try and track down a ticket. The promoters only have $680 tickets left, but suggest I try HMV. My luck's in and I bag a $280 ticket with a whole 36 hours to spare. Back to HITEC for the second time in three days. This time, the show is in Hall #3. The same place where Michael Schenker Group performed about three years ago. It's a banked auditorium with a sit where you like policy. Almost everyone tends to rush that stage when the lights dim. My method is to veer back and forth from front sidelines to the mixing desk near the rear.

One of my old favourite CD's is a mostly German/partial Eastern European symphonic-darkmetal compilation called "Beauty And Darkness" from about 2000-1. I've mentioned it in several reviews over the years. Various bands employing heavy metal-lica riffs, deathgruntvox, nassive drums and bass and gorgeous twinkly keyboards in counterpoint. "Copycat", one of the best tracks is by the darkmetal-electronica keyboard duo, Lacrimosa. Anna Nurmi is Finnish and Tilo Wolf is her German partner. They both sing and play electronic keyboards and sculpt other sounds. They first played HK in 2006.

Tonight is nearly a 'copycat" of the PLacebo gig. About 400 or so fans, again 90%+ Chinese. The only European (Australian) I know is Rick who works with Ciaran the Clown. He has his hair in little bunches and is wearing a mighty fine dress to boot. A functional uniform sort of dress mind you. Not a fluffy silken taffeta flowing ballroom number. Some other fans have gone for the Goth makeover, lots of black. Vari-colored hair. Tattos, Silver etc. Most of the crowd is wearing long-shorts and t-shirts or jeans and sweatshirts. Mostly comfort. Not too much posing. The doors have opened and everyone has done their usual thing. I've got a seat near the front.

Another local quintet is the opening act. They're called Abyssal Desire and they are unregenerate prog-metallers who have performed at HK's long running "SubTerranean" musical showcase. Goris, the lady singer. Jilus on guitar. Chansele on bass. Haize on keyboards and Hei is the drummer. Thanks, Rick for introducing me to them. The band play a 4-song set that lasts about half an hour. They have a lot of fans and I'm about to find out why. Goris should be a fan of the author, Stendahl. She's a "leather and lace" mix of red and black. (Not exactly leather and lace. Not exactly PVC and cotton either. It's a sort of Stevie Nicks code shorthand phrase if you know what I mean). Long straight hair. The guys range from short bowl cut, mini-mullet and teased Goth locks. Their performance is a step up in confidence from Mr. They're also playing more complex tunes with timechanges and musical ebbs, fades and extended vocal gymnastics. Goris is a wonderful singer. Starting out like Siouxsie Banshee, she mutates into Klaus Nomi or Dame Kiri on the higher scales. Stunning. She reminds me a lot of Marilena when she (Mari) takes vocal flight. Unlike Mari, Goris says her voice is entirely natural and she hasn't sung in church or with a choir. The drums and bass are in synched harmony. The guitar and keyboards provide the metal crunch and the orchestral swathes of sound. Any "Beauty And Darkness" comparisons are entirely valid tonight.

The roadies have done their roadie thing. Including spending a lot of time fiddling with a tv screen front and centre. There's a big black-and-white banner hanging over the stage. It features a happy/sad clown or jester in a triangular cap, juggling the band's name. Part Punch and Judy. Part traditional medieval fool. A classical pomp overture announces the imminent arrival on stage of Lacrimosa. Except, the roadies haven't left the stage. They're the live backing band. Lacrimosa, the duo, is a sextet tonight. Again, five gents and a lady. The band rumbles through a tune that rocks like the overture to "Tommy". Tilo starts singing, but he's nowhere in sight. Except on the tv screen. He's backstage in the corridor controlling the moment. As the first song ends, he and Anna slip on stage.

Again, I've failed to get any song names. It's mostly off the new release and mostly sung in German. Doomy Germanic Weimar Republic Cabaret type vocals. Sort of Marlene Dietrich meets Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles. Most of the songs don't escape this tempo. At times, I close my eyes and drift away. At times, I'm jarred awake by huge deathmetal guitar riffs. Theres a good energy and interplay between the guitars. The guitarist nearest me has short blonde hair (bit Jurgen Klinsman). The other guitar has dark curly(ish) below the shoulders hair (bit Ronnie James Dio). Everyone is dressed in casual, elegant black. Tilo sports a shorter Bono Live Aid '85 mullet with a huge blonde streak running back from his right temple. He looks way cooler than Bono did. Has the chunky features of Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange) and an eccentric, jerky dance style where he appears to fondle and hug himself at times.

Anna, of course, is captivating, Hair drawn back in a simple pony tail. Dressed in a mixture of a leather corset, "Mildred Pierce" shoulder pads, and a pleated mini-dress that could have come from St. Trinians School. Her voice is part Siouxsie Banshee and part the trills and ululations of Liz Frasier from The Cocteau Twins. She reminds me a bit of old friend, Martine, one of the earliest drummers for The Sisters of Sharon. She dances in a slow graceful way. Like Stevie Nicks meets Dame Margot Fonteyn with some sideways scuttles like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist".

I'm hoping I'll hear "Copycat". It was a huge hit for them, early in The Third Millenium, but maybe there's a lot of new stuff as well. After about 16 songs or so, my patience is rewarded. The familiar duh-durt, duh-durt refrain kicks in and the crowd goes absolutely mental. Everyone is on their feet, bawling out the lyrics. This show has just gone into interstellar overdrive, so to speak. Before they were more Gary Numan with added glam guitar guts. Now, they've gone all Flaming Lips on us. Choirs of voices hurtle rounbd the stage. Minimal bleeps and orchestral white noise breaks. Haunting Finnish and Russian folk melodies cascade among us. Anna breaks into a sensual litle 1-2-3-4. Part reggae tempo tango, part sedate waltz. I'm thinking that could be Mari up there dancing. Lost in the music and the moment. Must remember to tell her that when I get home.

Lacrimosa play two encores by furiously exultant demand. Tilo takes a turn on trumpet and transports everyone to some smoky, haunted jazz club at three a.m. with Miles Davis on lead trumpet. The pace is akin to Miles playing the old Michael Jackson tune "Human Nature". Fabulous. Tilo says the last song is called "Command" and is "something we don't play very often. Only on special occasions like tonight" It's about the closest they come to a Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd outer space workout and leaves the audience stunned and breathless. The band say they'll try not to wait another three years before returning here. Me, I'm feverishly counting the days already. What a wonderful half-week, spoilt only by the demise of my front door, due to old age and obsolecent disintegration. But, that's another story for another time.

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