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Tom Stade @ Doncaster Dome

‘What else is there to do in Doncaster on a Thursday night?’

It’s great going to see your favourite acts live and all but sometimes it is alluring to go in blind. I knew next to nothing about Canadian comedian Tom Stade before his show at the Dome but I can definitely say I am a convert now…
Before Stade took to the stage however, he treated us to a hilarious support act in the shape of fellow Canadian comedian Nigel Lawrence. The Santa Monica resident spent the first third of his act riffing on the ridiculously oversized stage in the middle of the cavernous Dome gymnasium, while also commenting on the fact that the venue had failed to provide him with a table for his beer, ‘I always find drinking a beer off the floor is the best way to drink a beer’ he sarcastically intoned. There was a wonderful moment part way through the set when a table was stealthily produced behind Lawrence resulting in a massive cheer from the crowd and an incredibly confused comic wondering why the audience had randomly started yelling in the middle of a bit. All in all Lawrence helped to set the tone for the evening, true pro’s on stage but adorably amateur off it.
Tom Stade waltzed out to rapturous applause only to find that there was no microphone in the microphone stand. As he correctly pointed out, this is really the only thing a comedian needs for his craft… bit of a fail then! Stade took the lack of organisation in good humour however and the minor failings of the Dome as a venue actually added to the show as a comedy spectacle. Stade has been a comic since 1989 and his gravelly voiced delivery recalls singer/song writer Tom Waits rather than any other comics. He combines his dulcet tones with a light and breezy persona. Imagine all the grime of Doug Stanhope without the anger or the politics. Indeed, I rolled my eyes at an early joke about Donald Trump, simply because making fun of Donald Trump is like shooting fish in a barrel (to paraphrase the Simpsons), but that one throw away comment was about as political as it got. Instead, the rest of the show was taken up with candid meditations on relationships, family and getting older. While this is well trodden ground in stand up comedy, Stade brings a personal touch that ensures the set is fresh and exciting throughout. Audience participation is constant but shared only between three members of the crowd who Tom constantly refers to. This lends the whole set a peculiar intimacy, a feeling of eavesdropping on a private conversation, and it is these interactions that lead to the funniest moments.
At one point Stade ruminates on the fact that he could afford a nice car ‘with all his sweet Doncaster money’ but he doesn’t because he is a boring old fuck. He laments the fact that technology has began to leave him behind and teases similar confessions out of the two middle aged men he has discovered in the audience. When one crowd member admits he doesn’t have Facebook, Stade asks ‘how do you send people pictures of your breakfast?’ before imagining said member of the audience emailing out pictures of sausages to his bewildered friends.
As Tom Stade leaves the stage in metaphorical tatters following a blistering set, he politely asks the sound guy to play a little music to see him off. A stony silence follows as chaos rules once again. In a way though, this is the perfect end to a shambolic but utterly mesmerising live performance. If you ever get the chance to see Stade live, and he does tour the UK extensively, then I urge you to do so.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com

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Placebo @ Doncaster Dome

“I know, you love the song but not the singer…”
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There is a temptation when covering local music to just declare everything brilliant and be done with it. I mean, nobody wants to lose those sweet press passes after all. For me, this culminated in an overwhelmingly positive review for a decidedly average show from Sheffield band the Sherlocks and a feeling of soul destroying shame for having been such a sell out. After that abomination was published, I vowed to be more honest, as seen in this review of a bizarre day in the heart of Askern.
It is that spirit then, and not just plain grumpiness, that informs the start of this review. Let’s talk about all the things that were wrong with Placebo’s set before we get to the good stuff. First off, the band came out to a video celebrating their 20th year. This is all well and good except it had a backing track of ‘Every You Every Me’ which meant they didn’t actually play the song live during their set.
Everything from third album Black Market Music onward sounded thrilling but the limp performances of their earlier songs left an indelible stain on an otherwise brilliant night. While opener ‘Pure Morning’ sounded OK, we had a seven song wait for the band to play another song from their early career. ‘I Know’ is a blistering and visceral track on record but tonight it sounds turgid and uninspired with frontman Brian Molko constantly out of tune and disinterested. Even worse is a dire run through of a slowed down ’36 Degrees’. It is genuinely baffling that the band could take such an exciting song and turn it into this plodding and tedious mess and even crowd favourite ‘Nancy Boy’ feels rushed and aloof. Aside from a forgettable trudge through ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ that’s it for the first two albums.
Admittedly, I feel more affronted by this than I probably should. I lost interest in Placebo somewhere around the time of Sleeping With Ghosts and that is hardly the bands fault. That doesn’t excuse such a lazy butchering of their own back catalogue however. If they can’t be arsed to play those songs properly it would be better for them to drop them from the set completely.
With that out of the way, what of the rest of the night? The opening salvo of ‘Loud Like Love’ and ‘Jesus’ Son’ acts as a blistering template for the rest of the night with the band attacking their instruments to provide a more fleshed out live sound.
‘Special Needs’ takes a gawky song title and turns it into something beautiful before an incendiary rendition of set highlight ‘Twenty Years’. The latter is an example of just how impressive a live spectacle the band can provide when they put their mind to it.
Brian Molko and co bring out all the hits to end the first part of the evening with ‘Special K’ receiving possibly the biggest crowd response of the night before the unmistakable opening riff from ‘The Bitter End’ pierces the Doncaster air.
The band end their set with a show stopping performance of their beloved cover of the Kate Bush classic ‘Running up that Hill’. It’s weird that Placebo are such an excellent covers band when they have so little respect for their own back catalogue…
Overall, Placebo just about did enough to justify the ticket price but if the back slappery and self congratulation of local music is to be condemned, then it must also be censored in the mainstream. This was a good performance but one plagued with poor decision making and a lack of effort.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com