Wednesday, September 7, 2022


COVID Policy
6:30 pm doors, 8 pm show

$35 advance, $40 day of show, $40 advance 21+ reserved balcony, $45 day of show 21+ reserved balcony

All ages welcome

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Placebo are on fire again. More than a quarter-century since vocalist-guitarist Brian Molko and bassist Stefan Olsdal started bashing around with broken guitars and toy instruments in Molko's front room in Deptford, the core duo have dug very deep to spirit up their gobsmackingly urgent eighth long-player.

Called ‘Never Let Me Go', it channels all their skill as songwriters and sound-makers into music that satisfies their near-brutal appetite for self-expression, but also seeks a furious relevance with the early-'20s world we all find ourselves in - crawling out of the pandemic into a landscape of intolerance, division, tech-saturation and imminent eco-catastrophe.

As such, the 2021-model Placebo are the diametric opposite of mid-career complacency, tackling both global issues and their own creative demands head on. The option to sit back and coast on former glories was there on a plate for them when they were last among us circa 2016-18.

A best-of collection entitled ‘A Place For Us To Dream' had propelled them onto a world-wide greatest-hits tour - much of it in arenas and large outdoor venues - where they'd dust off mid-'90s arriviste bangers like Pure Morning, Nancy Boy, and Without You I'm Nothing, the single version of which David Bowie lent his vocals to. The marketing script probably stipulated that playing these songs every night would reconnect them with their most commercial instincts, but the experience quickly became nightmarish for them.

"I thought it all got a little bit too commercial, around that period - the retrospective period," says Brian today, virtually spitting out those words with revulsion. "The whole enterprise was commercial, rather than artistic one, and I guess we reacted against that. I'm like, ‘Fuck this, the next record is gonna be about the pain of the world!' The silent scream that is everywhere - that's what interests me. Not this masturbatory, self-congratulatory two-year thing of, aren't we amazing?"

Adds Stefan, "It was actually like this gruelling five-year tour which went from the last album being released [2013's ‘Loud Like Love'] into the greatest hits. It kind of went on and on, and it was sucking the life out of me. I didn't have a lot of enthusiasm left for the band, because I think I was just drained. The thought of doing it again filled me with dread."

It was Brian's energy - an undimmably contrarian, refusenik spirit - which got Placebo back up and running. Having functioned with only a touring drummer since 2015, it was like the band had come full circle when just Brian and Stef reconvened to commence work on ‘Never Let Me Go' in '18 - only these days a little more upscale, at Stef's home studio in East London.

"In the breaks between tours," Molko recalls, "we'd met over there periodically, and discussed things like, ‘It's just me and you in the studio now - shall we make a record that sounds like nothing we have made before? And programme all the drums ourselves?"

Brian's perennial dissatisfaction with anything he's created before drove him to seek out new ways of working, with an almost Brian Eno-esque, outside-the-box logic.

"I have a major boredom problem," he explains. "If we were going back to the exact same process, I figured that I might get bored kind of quickly. So, I decided to do everything backwards, just to keep the process interesting for me - to approach everything from the opposite angle, to stop myself from getting bored, and repeating myself. I thought, ‘What's the last thing that we come up with artistically when we're making a record? It's the album cover. Okay, let's start with the album cover!'"

Molko had an image in mind, showed it to Olsdal, told him the backstory, and they agreed it should be the album artwork, somewhat unconventionally, before they'd finalised a single note of music. Molko then produced a list of putative song titles he'd written up over the last five years, which included ‘Happy Birthday In The Sky', ‘Beautiful James' and several others from the future tracklisting, and those songs were written to the titles.

Once they'd got the ball rolling "less conceptually and more practically", he says, "that backwards way of working faded away", and all this indestructible duo's abilities, both innate and acquired, at building a colossal, heart-wrenching piece of music kicked in with a vengeance.

* * * * *

‘Never Let Me Go' opens with a mind-boggling sound, rather like Big Black's Kerosene, where you're instantly wondering, "How did they do that? Is it a guitar...or what?" That intro to Forever Chemicals was apparently the first piece of music completed for the album, and it's not an instrument you'd expect.

"I had this drum machine on my iPad," Molko reveals, "and I programmed a beat in, but then I continued to look through the menu, and you could put this drum machine on a whole set of orchestral instruments, so I put the drumbeat onto a harp, and then I distorted it and put some delay on it - boom! So that is a distorted harp loop that started off as a programmed drumbeat. I guess it was a signpost of how we were going to do this record, moving forward."

Digesting the album's narrative as a whole, it bursts into life with unrestrainable urgency, its first three tracks rocketing along with all the vigour of a teenage punk combo, but with consummate pop mastery on ‘Beautiful James', a stirring anthem for non-heteronormative relationships from a group who first championed such diversity with 1996's Nancy Boy amid Britpop's amorphous lad culture, before today's more open, crusading atmosphere.

The memorable opening line from third song ‘Hugz' - "a hug is just another way of hiding your face" - feels like it may be some tart comment on pandemic manners. It's a crushing statement when any form of embrace has felt so priceless during recent months of enforced solitude, but it was actually written - or rather thieved - by Brian from no lesser source than ‘Doctor Who'.

"Like a lot of my best lines, it's not mine!" laughs the magpie songsmith. "It was when Peter Capaldi was still playing the Doctor, pre-pandemic, and Clara Oswald was saying goodbye and asks for a hug, so he hugged her and said, ‘It's just a way of hiding your face', and I went, ‘Thank you very much!' So it was another one where the inspiration for the song came from that [duly shortened] title."

After the initial fast-paced three-song triple-whammy, ‘Never Let Me Go' opens out through many moods and musical styles, which widen the rubric for what Placebo can be.

"It's a very synthy record," Molko proudly declares. "Towards the end of '19, I set myself a challenge, to try and get a synthesiser on every song on the record. I had the bug, and then Stef got the bug, and our producer Adam Noble got the bug. Now there are four or five on each song, and it's almost as if the distorted guitars and the vintage synthesisers are as important as each other, and there's this push and pull between them. Melodically, a lot of time the guitars are just supporting the lead melody, which is on synthesiser."

Tracks which bear this out include ‘Beautiful James', the fizzing ‘Chemtrails' and the almost Visage-like ‘Sad White Reggae', but Placebo's sound palette also takes in splashes of piano (‘This Is What You Wanted'), orchestration (‘The Prodigal' - says Stefan, "we always loved the string arrangement for ‘Eleanor Rigby', where a simple quartet can be so powerful and rhythmic"), spoken word (‘Went Missing') and, on ‘Surrounded By Spies', a strange collision of rap and soundtrack music, of which Stef observes, "We definitely feel that one breaks the mould a bit for us".

Just musically, the album has a narrative arc that's wide-reaching and intrepid, touching many bases and finally culminating with ‘Fix Yourself', which builds in slow, stately fashion like a lost track off The Cure's ‘Disintegration', yet never quite delivers on its title promise by resolving to a happy ending, instead drifting off inconclusively to a disquieting mantra: "go fix yourself, instead of someone else".

As Molko was saying, it's all about "the pain of the world, the silent scream that is everywhere" ...and the powers-that-be didn't write a happy ending for that movie yet.

* * * * *

For Brian Molko, "it remains imperative that each listener discovers their own personal story within our songs - I really don't want to tell anyone how to feel". Yet there is a fury at the heart of ‘Never Let Me Go' which, while never explicitly polemical, is palpably sparked by the many lunacies and injustices he says in contemporary life.

Those who interview Molko will inevitably be subject to extraordinarily acutely articulated views on all facets of our daily experience right now, whether it be Instagram's "infinity mirror of narcissism", or the campaign against online intolerance.

One might say that he's an opinionated rock star like they don't make 'em anymore, but like any true artist he considers himself a conduit for what the general public are feeling. In The mid-'90s, back when non-binary icons weren't realistically dreamt of, he spoke for those who felt alienated by blokey Britpop, channelling glam-goth androgyny, grungey sonics and pop savvy for an alternative vision which struck a genuinely international chord. With more than 13 million albums now sold, including five UK Top Ten LP chart entries and comparable global sales for ‘Without You, I'm Nothing' (1998) and 2009's Europe-slaying ‘Battle For The Sun', Placebo have a voice that can be neither ignored nor silenced.

All that thought about the world's follies comes at a price. "I'm as psychologically brutalized by the last few years, as is anybody who has a heart enough to care," says a rueful Molko, going on to explain how he's been suffering prolonged bouts of insomnia, "where I sleep maximum two or three hours a night, for two or three months". The upside, however, is that the sleep deprivation makes him "open to something because of the deliriousness, and melodies just appear in my head from nowhere". The hookline for ‘Beautiful James', for instance, arrived at 5am one morning, which had him scrambling across his East London flat to the piano, with Voice Notes engaged on his smartphone.

And all this BEFORE the Coronavirus cast unprecedented existential dead and uncertainty into everyone's lives. By the time the pandemic hit, ‘Never Let Me Go' was 85% completed. After briefly toying with programming all the beats themselves, Brian and Stef decided to switch operations from Olsdal's flat to RAK Studios near Regent's Park, to record live drums from touring sticksman Matthew Lunn, as well as Pietro Garrone from sometime support act Husky Loops, from Bologna, Italy ("We wanted a very enthusiastic person in the room, and that's exactly who Pietro is").

"We were just finishing up the final drum tracks," Stef remembers, "when a voice on TV that evening in March '20, told everyone lockdown was starting. We were the last people in RAK, going, ‘Er, should we go home then?'"

Placebo's eighth album was on schedule for a summer '20 release, but instead of rushing it out, or even using the protracted downtime to knock a second long-player, they decided to spend further time finessing the one at hand back at Stef's. Brian was unhappy with some of his lyrics and completely rewrote the words for three songs.

"I wanted to capture the confusion of what it's like to be alive today," he reasons, "the feeling of being lost, always walking in a labyrinth, continuously being overwhelmed by information and opinions."

His inestimable skill is to evoke all this without pinpointing or overstating, to imply critique without hectoring. He's particularly proud of the line in ‘Fix Yourself', "I am bored of your Caucasian Jesus" - an artfully sideways rock ‘n' roll alignment, surely, with Black Lives Matter. Elsewhere, the track rails at the barrage of online ads and social-media conversations telling us how to think and how to live.

While Molko himself is loath to be too direct, Olsdal has this to say: "Brian has 300 different highways in his head, all going at a million miles an hour. There's so much in his lyrics this time, taking you to so many different places - some very dark, but there's love and hope in there, too. I see a lot of his truth, and our truth."

When Molko does speak directly, his words hit all the harder. The issue of privacy, and the everyday hijacking thereof in 2020's life, is one very close to home for him, clearly expressed in ‘Surrounded By Spies'.

"I began to ponder the countless ways in which our privacy has been eroded and stolen since the introduction worldwide of CCTV cameras that now employ racist facial recognition technologies; the rise of the internet and the smartphone, which has turned practically every user into a paparazzo and a spectator in their own life, and how we have mostly all offered up personal information to enormous multinationals whose sole intent is to exploit us."

Brian delivers an equally open broadside on the environment crisis, on the scathingly titled, ‘Try Better Next Time' - obviously, there will be no second chances after planetary destruction. "It talks about growing fins, and going back to the water," he says, "which is also a nod to Captain Beefheart's ‘The Spotlight Kid' obviously."

He believes that our reckless attitude towards our own living space is simply an extension of our insubstantial culture. "I wonder how disposable everything is going to become until essentially the next disposable thing is us," he muses. "Is there another species on this planet that deserves an extinction event more the humans? Just look at the way we behave and what we've done to our climate. Shouldn't Mother Nature just wipe us out and give our planet back to the animals?" He smiles.

"I say to my son, I'm a little jealous of you because your generation may get front-row seats to the Apocalypse. You might be able to watch it all burn. It might be the last thing you ever do, but you'll sure go out in a blaze of glory!"

Little wonder Molko suffers all those sleepless nights. ‘Never Let Me Go' is music for the committed and the disenchanted, for insomniacs, activists and trolls to chew over at their leisure. It also takes Placebo to a thrilling new breadth of sound and style - yet another ‘best album they've ever done', in an unstoppable sequence of them. Once you've grabbed hold of it, indeed, you won't want to let it go.








The Crystal Ballroom

1332 W. Burnside
Portland OR 97209

(503) 225-0047
Contact us

Where On Any Night, Anything Can Happen!!

In these walls...

The historic Crystal Ballroom -- now over a century old -- is one of those rare concert halls that can point to a proud, diverse history while also laying claim to an ongoing musical legacy. Every time you enter this majestic ballroom, let your imagination sense the tremors resonating from a century's worth of gatherings, and realize that you are joining a thriving, generations-long procession of show-goers. Welcome!


Tech Specs

Floor and stage plan
PDF download

Lighting diagram 
PDF download

Sound manifest
PDF download
Lola's Room: 
PDF download

Technical and logistical packet
For Crystal Ballroom & Lola's Room
PDF download

Ballroom height and beam-to-beam dimensions
16' 11" from beam to floor
19' 11" from floor to ceiling
14' 6" in between beams

Promoter Info

Rental Expenses To Outside Promoters

$365  PRODUCTION MANAGER ($54.75/hr OT)
$255  STAGE MANAGER ($38.32/hr OT)
$255  FOH TECHNICIAN ($38.32/hr OT)
$255  MONITOR ENGINEER ($38.32/hr OT)
$255  LIGHTING DIRECTOR ($38.32/hr OT)
$150  HOSPITALITY ($20/hr OT) [mileage is 33 cents per mile]
$1,000*  SECURITY ($100/hr OT)
$100  BOX OFFICE STAFF ($20/hr OT)
$ ----  CHAIR RENTAL ($2 per chair)
$ ----  BOX OFFICE CREDIT CARD FEE (3% of Box Credit Card Sales)

* Security cost is an estimate. Additional security may be required depending on the nature of the event. 

Overtime: All expenses incurred by the Crystal Ballroom for Catering, Advertising, requested stagehands, overtime (anything over 10 hours), backline, barricade, risers, etc. will be added to total rental rate.

Deposits: A non-refundable 50% room deposit and a $2,500 'untenured promoter fee' (UPF) is due immediately in order to secure the room. If ticket sales exceed 500 the 'UPF' will be refunded; if ticket sales are below 500 the room keeps the entire $2,500 to make up for less than 1/3 capacity and corresponding lack of sales. The 'UPF' will not be refunded if the event cancels within 60 days of the event.

Settlement: Venue will pay renter with a company check at the immediate conclusion of door sales. Venue will not provide any cash at settlement.

Late Night Fee: There is a $1,000/hour additional fee for any events after 3 a.m. We may also require additional security for events of that nature.

Merchandise: Merch rate is 20% they sell. We can provide a seller with advance notice and will keep 30% of sales. The outside promoter will receive no revenue from the merchandise as that is the prerogative of the house. House keeps a percentage of all transactions.

Tickets: All tickets must be placed through the venue onto the Cascade Tickets system. All comps, label buys, and holds must be approved by the venue. There is a $2/ticket venue fee at the Box Office.

Refunds: All refunds will be directed to the outside promoter. In the absence of an outside promoter representative, the venue shall use its own discretion regarding refunds and all refunds shall be deducted from settlement.

Insurance and Licenses: Renter must provide liability insurance not less than $1,000,000 for any single occurrence naming McMenamins Inc. d.b.a. Crystal Ballroom as additionally insured. Tickets will not be placed on sale until binder is received. Promoter is responsible for all ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC fees.

Production Advance: Performers or their representative must contact venue's production manager 5 days prior to the event in order to advance production needs, otherwise runner will arrive at 6 p.m. and all rider items/requests will be greatly limited if provided at all.

Layout: The Crystal Ballroom is located on the 3rd floor. The first floor is Ringlers Restaurant and the 2nd floor is Lola's Room, both of which may have a public or private event simultaneously with the Crystal.

Cancellation/Postponement: The contract covers the specified event for the specified date. No substitution will be accepted for a cancellation. If the event is postponed the room deposit will be transferred to the date of the new event but the $2,500 'UPF' will be applied toward the date of the originally scheduled show and an additional $2,500 will be required in order to reschedule.

Capacity: The venue's capacity is 1500*. All artist and promoter guests and comps will be deducted from sellable. Comp and guest space must be reserved in advance. House is entitled to 20 guests. House guests will not effect sellable. Promoter must have guest list to house no later than 2 hours prior to doors. VIP cap is 25.

* Seated capacity is 850. Seated shows must be 21 and over. There is a $2/chair rental fee.

Venue and corporate sponsor banners may be present during event.

Marketing your event at the Crystal Ballroom

Please contact Mike Walker for information about marketing your event through McMenamins resources.

Box Office

Please note! Both the Crystal Ballroom and Lola's Room specialize in open-floor shows with a very limited amount of seats. The rare seated events will be clearly denoted as such, within the event description on our schedule page.

Box Office Information

Tickets for all McMenamins shows are ticketed by Cascade Tickets, and may be purchased at the Crystal box office (located under the Crystal's awning) and McMenamins Edgefield, by phone at 1-855-CAS-TIXX, or by clicking the "Buy Tickets" link located at the event listing on our schedules.

Tickets bought directly at the Crystal box office or any of our four ticket outlets will only incur a $1 facility charge. (Please note! Tickets to Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn will incur additional service fees.)

Crystal Ballroom Box Office Hours 
Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The box office is open later on nights when there is a performance.

The box office accepts cash, VISA, MasterCard, American Express and DiscoverCard.

Will Call

Will call is located at the box office.


All ticket purchases are non-refundable.


There are three pay lots nearby, and street parking is available.


Those with disabilities may call (503 225 0047) or email in advance to arrange early admittance.

There is an elevator located in the lobby.

Hold your Private Event at Crystal Ballroom

Weddings  Meetings  Social Events

The Crystal Ballroom is a truly awe-inspiring venue with its vaulted ceilings, grand chandeliers, giant wallscapes and famous "floating" dance floor. Accommodating groups from 100 to 1000 people, this 7,500-square-foot space includes access to the Ballroom's classic corner stage, floor-to-ceiling windows, swooping balcony, and full bar service.

Tucked in the Crystal’s second story is Lola’s Room accommodating events of up to 200 guests.  Lola’s comes with a handsome fully stocked bar, original artwork, and a floating dance floor all it’s own.

For overnight accommodations, our Crystal Hotel is just a block away!

Contact our sales team to inquire or book your event.
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Artwork plays an important role in the character of McMenamins locations throughout Oregon and Washington. We believe art makes life richer and more enjoyable. So, you'll often find paintings covering our walls, ceilings doors, overhead pipes, and equipment -- works as diverse and entertaining as our places for family and friends. Many artists have contributed to this vast variety of delightful eye candy. Jump in and enjoy some now!




Explore the Crystal Blocks

Our Crystal Hotel and legendary Crystal Ballroom are just across the street from each other, each offering their own unique spaces for live music, Northwest style fare and McMenamins hand crafted beverages.  Explore these properties and all they have to offer. 

*Get 15% off room rates at Crystal Hotel, Sunday through Thursday with a ticket purchase. (Must mention at time of booking, must verify ticket at check in for discount) *restrictions apply. 

Crystal Ballroom Property

Crystal Ballroom  Lola's Room  Ringlers Pub  Crystal Brewery

Crystal Hotel Property

Crystal Hotel  Al's Den  Ringlers Annex  Zeus Cafe

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