Gig preview: Placebo at O2 Academy Leeds

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Alternate rock band Placebo have carved out an incredible success story for themselves. Since their formation in 1996, they have released seven Top 10 albums and sold over 11 million unites, worldwide.

Despite having released their last studio album Loud Like Love in 2013, the band has only just got around to doing a proper UK tour to promote it. This week will seem them tread the boards at Leeds Academy.

Despite the ability to fill much larger venues, even arenas, bassist and guitarist Stefan Olsdal says that playing the smaller theatres is like going back to the band’s roots. “We’ve played two shows so far, we’ve played Dublin Olympia and Belfast Waterfront. It was more of a posh, classical venue, so distorted guitars, I don’t know, they sounded a bit weird on stage.

“Generally, these type of venues, it gets really sweaty and loud and intimate. It gets more punk, when it’s bigger you have to play to the person in the back. This is kind of where we started, these are the kind of shows that we played around the first and second album so it’s great to go back and have that vibe, again.

“The 20th anniversary is coming up next year, so it’s pretty non-stop for us right now. But we haven’t done an extensive UK tour in a long time. I don’t think we really thought that long in the future, there were dreams that we had when we first set it up in the slums of London. We wanted to play the Brixton Academy, and then we played that, and then you set the stakes slightly higher. We got to do these amazing collaborations with amazing artists that we admire, like David Bowie. We’ve just kind of burned bridges all along the way and this is what we do. It’s so important to us, me and Brian have stuck it through, we’re currently now on our fourth drummer,” he laughs.

2016 will see mark the 20th anniversary of the release of their first album, the platinum Placebo. As well as a reissue of all their back catalogue on vinyl, the band will also be hitting the road once again. “There’s so many plans going on for the 20th anniversary,” begins Olsdal. “We’re going to go out and play all the hits again – some of them that we can’t even stand to play! There’s a lot of balls in the air at the moment, which is great, there’s a lot of things in the pipeline for us so it’s exciting.”

As well as the gig at the Academy, Leeds is also being treated to a secret after show in a still unannounced location, which will see Placebo perform a headline DJ set. Also giving performances will be Reverend and the Makers, Hookworms and The Officers. This after show has been arranged to raise money and awareness for the charity CALM, which was set up to help prevent young men committing suicide.

“It came to our attention via one of the guys in the band The Officers, Jamie Baker, who’s a driving force behind it,” explains Olsdal. “It keeps popping up in the news, as well; just a few days ago in The Guardian there was this front page news saying that the biggest killer in young men in the UK is suicide. I’ve been around a lot of friends and family who have suffered from mental problems, I had an uncle who committed suicide – shot himself. It’s something that’s around us but it’s still stigmatised, people don’t really talk about it, especially guys.

“It’s very difficult on the NHS to be seen and to get someone to talk to, and the counsellors that you get to see, they’re overworked. It’s not really treated as seriously as it should be, since it is a lead cause of death in young men. We’re just trying to raise awareness, and also the proceeds are going to go towards helping CALM to man more telephones, because as it is now their phone lines are jammed up. We feel personally towards it, and also it’s of national concern.”

Despite both founding members being in their forties these days, Placebo still retain the youthful energy that made them such a big deal on the 90s music scene, but do they see themselves sticking around long enough to be celebrating a 40th anniversary? “Crystal ball,” muses Olsdal. “I appreciate everything I have today, but the way it feels right now, yeah, I think there’ll be one. I’m going to hold onto that feeling for as long as I can.”

Placebo play at O2 Academy Leeds on March 9. For tickets visit