From the moment Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe enter the stage on two large, revolving coloured disks, Neil sporting a metallic laurel wreath, and Chris’ face typically covered with a silver helmet, you know you're at a Pet Shop Boys Concert.
For over 30 years, this amazingly successful duo has been treating us to great pop tunes. And, unlike some bands that started in the 1980s and only tour their hits, the Pet Shop Boys are very much still creating new music. Their concert at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena was evidence to this extensive repertoire, featuring tracks from their debut album, Please, right up to their 13th studio release, 2016’s Super, the latter providing the opening number, Inner Sanctum.
We’re then straight into a banger with Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money), first heard in 1985, closely followed by two tracks from Super, the effervescent The Pop Kids, and, in my opinion at least, the superior Burn. But whichever song you prefer, they both stand up strongly in a set list that includes more familiar work like New York City Boy, Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is) and Love Comes Quickly.
We may be well into in the 21st Century now, but Tennant and Lowe have lost none of their songwriting skill. Proof, if proof is needed, comes with a hypnotic rendition of Love Etc (from 2009’s Yes), and a beautiful performance of 2012’s Winner, which, before the concert, I’d dismissed as being one of their weaker songs. For me it was a highlight of the night, and I’ve been playing it non-stop since.
Love is a Bourgeois Construct (a very Pet Shop Boys title, don’t you think?) and The Sodom and Gomorrah Show (with the memorable opening lyrics “I lived a quiet life, a stranger to champagne”) also set the arena alight. Of course the biggest reception of the evening comes for those monster hits from the 1980s and 90s, including new versions (but thankfully not ‘too’ new) of Left To My Own Devices and Go West (which should really have been their 5th Number 1). West End Girls (“Well, we had to do it, didn’t we?” asks Neil….Er yes, you did!) and, especially, It’s a Sin, lift the roof.
But the best is left to last. Interaction with the audience has been minimal throughout the gig, but during the final numbers, and as coloured balloons float high above the stage, Neil Tennant suddenly embraces his own inner pop kid, and gives a euphoric rendition of Domino Dancing, conducting the audience to sing the chorus, which we do rapturously. It is utterly poptastic and the stand out performance of the night.
The concert ends as it began, with a PSB classic - Always on My Mind, possibly the best cover version ever, followed by a reprise of The Pop Kids, as if to deliberately remind us that, as Neil says, “We are STILL the Pet Shop Boys.”
A Super evening? Very.
★★★★★ - Dean Asker
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