Last Friday, I spent the evening at my parents’ house. I came home from tutoring and my Mom pointed at the television screen: Placebo – MTV Unplugged. The new album that my Mom and I had been listening on Youtube for the past couple of weeks, was broadcasted on MTV! I hurried to the couch, bundled up in cozy blankets, all ready to watch and listen the MTV Unplugged album by, probably, my favorite band: Placebo.
On August 19, 2015, Placebo performed an exclusive concert in London, which has been filmed and recorded, and is now released as the band’s MTV Unplugged album. It features songs from all previous albums, plus two covers and two featured guests.
There’s still a debate going on about my favorite song off the album. Right now, it’s a tie between “36 degrees” and “Meds”. The first, originally released on the band’s debut album in 1996, is completely transformed. From a teenage-angst-anthem, “36 degrees” became an emotionally loaded, complex ballad with strings forming the core melody. The second was one of the first songs that made me fall in love with Placebo’s music. “Meds” was first released on the same-titled album in 2006 and it a typical example of the epic build-up songs that Placebo presents in its oeuvre. On “MTV Unplugged”, the song becomes one of the most intimate reimagination. The epic build-up is still there, as the songs starts with solely Molko’s voice and piano, grows into a symphony of strings, carrying out a sad melody.
Placebo invited two featured guests upon their MTV Unplugged stage. During the performance of “Every You Every Me”, Majke Voss Romme from Broken Twin sang along with Molko. The combination of Molko’s more high-pitched sound with Romme’s low voice was perfect. It added a certain diversity to the song, as if two persons were talking to each other. Later, Joan As A Policewoman joined during “Protect Me From What I Want”, which was a little less of a perfect match. Where Romme’s voice added a layer to Molko’s sound, Joan’s voice cut a sharp difference between the two sounds, which did not add anything to the performed song.
Near the end of the concert, Placebo performed The Pixies cover “Where Is My Mind?”, which was a little bit fuller and more bombastic in comparison to the strangely fragile songs. It’s not one of my personal favorites, but a head-strong guitar is paired with a subtle piano and the combination provides the ultimate example between both Placebo’s original work and the reimagined songs.
Apart from the music, there’s another incredibly impressive aspect of Placebo’s “MTV Unplugged” and that is the setting. Between the audience and the stage upon which the band is performing, hangs a semi-seethrough curtain. The audience can see the band performing, but the band can’t see the audience. Upon the curtain, graphics are shown, from more mathematical structures to rain and from crashing waves to panels. The projections gave depth to the visual aspect of Placebo’s show and was at times truly breathtaking. During the performance of “Meds”, the band is surrounded by flowing white stars, circling around the performers, following the pattern of the music.
With “MTV Unplugged”, Placebo proved how inventive they really are. They completely reimagined their characteristic songs into completely new ones, some even better than they already were.