Unplugged: The Rock Gig Where Phones are Banned


At the O2 Victoria warehouse in Manchester, British rock band Placebo banned phones, photography and filming any part of their performance.

Everyone has tapped through an absurd amount of Snapchat story videos of a concert you have no interest in. Posting your best shots and videos on Instagram after the gig. But, at Placebo’s latest concert on November 22nd, posters and notices were plastered around the warehouse venue requesting that attendees not use their phone for the duration of their set.

Placebo have been releasing music for just shy of thirty years, topping rock and alternative charts, covering pop and hip hop songs and adding their synth rock touch to it, including their most popular cover: Running up that Hill. With their almost completely sold-out UK tour, Brian and Stefan have returned to live music following the pandemic stronger than ever.

‘Dear Placebo fans,
I would kindly ask you NOT to spend the concert filming or taking photos with your mobile phones. It makes Placebo’s performance so much more difficult. More difficult to connect with you and to communicate effectively the emotions of the songs. It is also disrespectful to your fellow concert-goers who want to watch the show, not the back of your phone. Please be there now in the present and enjoy the moment. Because this moment will never ever happen again. Our purpose is to create communion and transcendence. Please help us on our mission. With respect and love. Peace. Namaste.’

Text displayed on screens, posters, and on audio recordings playing at the placebo concert at manchester o2 victoria warehouse 22/11/2022

In their latest album ‘Never Let Me Go’ they are very critical of technology and media, they have often expressed a negative view on modern society and practices throughout their previous albums in the past. In order to spread the message of their songs easier and so other concert goers aren’t staring at the back of a phone for two hours, placebo made the decision to ban videos and photos, taking us back to the pre-smart phone gig era.

Signs displayed at the O2 Victoria Warehouse Placebo Concert

As an experience, as much as I would have liked some pictures and videos of the artists, my favourite songs, and the electrifying set, it was really relaxing and freeing to not touch my phone throughout the entire concert. Not having to worry about holding my arm up to film the full guitar solo, or having to listen to my own voice screaming the lyrics the next day, was definitely a lot more fun.

The opening act, Cruel Hearts Club, a female punk rock band, started off the night with catchy lyrics and beautiful vocals, including a cover of ‘All the things you said’ getting the audience involved and shouting. Though there was no demand for audiences to avoid using their phones during this performance, the majority of fans followed suit and neglected the use of their phones for the entire three hour music experience.

The very few pictures taken from the entire night, a selfie entering the venue, and the stage after the performance

Although I would be upset if every concert adapted this policy, it was certainly a nice escape from reality and a change of pace. The music itself was lively and passionate, with the majority of the fans there over 30, there was no shortage of head banging, mosh pits, and screaming. For a band in the industry for decades, their energy and talent hasn’t faded, playing song after song with very little in the ways of rest or breaks, the pace was quick and the riffs heavy.

However, as the band expressed their wish to connect, they did far less than usual in terms of talking to the audience, encouraging involvement and call and response. This is likely their way of spreading the message of their songs, through taking in all of what is played without distraction, to fully engage the crowd, and I would have to agree that it worked

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1 Comment

  1. maybe in order to keep it private in its appearance

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