Placebo Power Up For Explosive Performance

British neo-glam-rockers' concert emphasizes material from latest album, Without You I'm Nothing.

LOS ANGELES -- Placebo looked as though they were caught in an electrical explosion.

It was the end of the trio's show Sunday night at the Whisky a Go Go here. The stage was a blinding spectacle of strobe lights and white rays, while the sound system was shrieking with guitar feedback and tumultuous noise.

Black-haired and black-clad, androgynous frontman Brian Molko had his back to the crowd and was thrusting his guitar against his amp, his motions exaggerated by the spastic lighting. Guitarist/bassist Stefan Olsdal stood front and center in his tight red dress, staring ominously at the crowd, which included Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Drummer Steve Hewitt stayed in the shadows, but his solid backbeat was everywhere.

They were playing the instrumental "Dildo" -- a hidden track on their latest album, Without You I'm Nothing. Live, the song's pace increased as it raged forward to the end of the band's set. Melody and rhythm collapsed into each other, as if Placebo somehow were trying to annihilate the composition.

That climax was in sharp contrast to the mixture of keyboard-enhanced ballads and artful, guitar-driven punk-pop numbers that preceded it. Yet it was an appropriate finale for the show, if only because it was so, well, final.

"I think I started drooling, because I never swallowed or closed my mouth during the whole [show]," said new fan Alex Hill, 22. "The whole show was f---ing unbelievable, but the ending was totally surreal."

The glam-punk rockers maintained a dramatic, surging energy throughout the performance, drawing on material from Without You I'm Nothing and its predecessor, their self-titled 1996 debut album.

After opening the show with the self-mocking rock lament "Scared of Girls," the trio continued -- accompanied by an additional, unseen bassist -- with the new, noisy number, "Brick Sh--house" (RealAudio excerpt). "This is a ghost story," Molko said introducing the tune.

This song was among several other standout rockers --including "Every You Every Me" (RealAudio excerpt) and "36 Degrees" -- the band played.

As usual, Molko sported a gender-bending look -- his eyes outlined in black, and his black suit open to reveal his bare chest. His distinctive, nasal voice was most affecting during the ballads, which he sang with an often-pained look on his face.

"I have a crush on Brian because he looks like her," Erlandson said, gesturing toward a pretty, dark-haired female companion sitting next to him.

"I love them," Erlandson added. "I love their record."

Molko seems as confident onstage as on record. His banter was at times satirical and at other times philosophical.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return," he told the crowd, quoting a line from the Nat King Cole hit "Nature Boy," before playing "My Sweet Prince" (RealAudio excerpt) from the new album.

With electronic clicks that resembled the sound of a cricket keeping a faint, delicate beat, the spine-tingling love song also featured haunting, atmospheric piano playing.

Other ballads were equally affecting, including "The Crawl" and, from Placebo, a slowed version of "Teenage Angst." "This is a cover version of our own song," Molko said before playing the latter number.

"They were incredibly efficient at bringing their recorded sound to the stage," fan Lisa Garibay, 24, said afterward.

"I'm glad that we saw them here," her friend, Diana Faluo, 25, added. "[Radio station] KROQ will probably start playing the hell out of them, and next time, we'll have to see them at [an arena]."