Placebo at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, TX

Placebo @ Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater Austin | Photo by Zach Birdsong

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Placebo played in Austin, Texas, performing for a sold-out crowd at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater.

In late April, the UK-based rockers embarked on their first North American tour in nearly a decade. The series of dates opened in Mexico City before Placebo hit the stage in the United States for the first time since 2014. 

Opening the night was Poppy Jean Crawford, who performed a solid 30-minute set. Though most attendees were unfamiliar with the singer, she captivated the crowd. While she didn’t say much to the audience –  aside from thanking Placebo for having her out on tour –  she made new fans with her hypnotic sound that had the crowd wanting more. The intoxicating performance proved to be the perfect segway to the headliners. 

Before the gates opened, venue staff and security told fans that photos and video could not be taken during Placebo’s performance. Crowd members were again reminded as posters were found throughout the venue. For one final reminder, a video of the band’s lead singer Brian Molko played regarding the policy. He asked fans to live and enjoy the moment and stated, “This exact moment will never ever happen again.” While some patrons may have scoffed at the notion, it ended up making the 22-song performance extra special. 

Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater may be located in the heart of downtown Austin, yet the venue itself has a very backyard feel. Rather than gates, the outside of the amphitheater contains wooden fences to further add to that aesthetic. With Placebo’s no photo and video policy, it genuinely felt as if individuals were getting to see an intimate performance – even if there were an additional 2,000-plus people on hand. 

Shortly after that video message from Molko, the opening chimes from the group’s track “Forever Chemical” blasted over the speakers. As Molko and bassist-guitarist Stefan Olsdal took to the stage, they were met with thunderous applause. There were several moments where Molko couldn’t help but step away from the microphone and shed a smile while soaking in the moment. 

Half of Placebo’s setlist revolved around tracks from their album, Never Let Me Go, released in September. Hidden between those songs were some deep cuts, fan favorites, and a couple of covers. 

After leaving the stage, Placebo returned for a three-song encore that led with their version of “Shout,” originally recorded by Tears For Fears. The group concluded the night with another cover. Before Netflix’s Stranger Things got ahold of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” Placebo had famously added a haunting yet beautiful twist to the track. The tune lent itself to a perfect exit for the group as they waved goodbye to a sea of applause.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the overall performance, which contained several sing-along moments. However, it was clear that some audience members were disappointed not to hear some tracks that made the band a worldwide name. Key omissions from the songlist included “Pure Morning,” “Every You Every Me,” “Meds,” and “Nancy Boy,” – which, oddly enough, the merch stand had a T-shirt for sale that included the track title.

As the old saying goes, hope springs eternal, and plenty of optimism exists for those disappointed Placebo fans. As the band continues to write and release new music, it’s clear both Molko and Olsdal have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. That creativity lends itself to the possibility of future tour dates. Hopefully, it won’t be another 20 years before Austin sees the band again. 

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About Zach Birdsong 40 Articles
A current communications specialist with a background in journalism, where he served as a multiple award-winning newspaper editor, photographer and designer. In eight years, he received 18 awards from the Tennessee Press Association, the majority of which stems from his photography. He's also been fortunate enough to have had photos used by publications around the world including Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Today Show, Vanity Fair, Vogue Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and more.