Live reviews - Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys, De Montfort University, Leicester (14.01.2002)

The Pet Shop Boys doing a proper gig?

This has got to be one of the most anticipated shows of the year from a duo who’ve managed to clasp onto their own identity throughout 3 decades. I started noting down all their “hit” songs from memory and gave up after I reached the 20 mark, can’t say that for many bands.

The stage is impressively lit with a rig that looks like it cost more than it did to make their entire catalogue of albums. Lord knows how much their usual choreographed theatrical show costs, but I’m told this is “stripped down”.

Chris Lowe comes on towing the session band sporting the trademark hoody and cap, still emotionless still engaging.
Neil Tennant arrives after the beat-fuelled intro, wearing a black designer shirt ready to “pop the house” and for a thin sounding voice his words cut through astonishingly well through the hungry but harmless male dominated audience.
The fact is PSB don’t really need to gig at all. They could easily roam the West End never having to worry about paying their rent. You get the impression though that they are doing this purely because they want a new challenge and in their own unique way they pass the test from the outset “Disco Pretentia” (I’m sure you can visualise this song).

For a set almost 90 minutes long (with encores) you’d be forgiven for thinking it should sound like a greatest hits show with classics like Opportunities, It’s a sin, Rent, Domino Dancing and Jealousy at their command. After all it’s not like they’ve played these songs to death over the years...they’ve never seen the light of day in an intimate environment.
Yet more than half the set is either B-sides or songs from their new album of which the most instant is “Home and dry”, there first single this year. Tennant plays many of the songs with an acoustic guitar which makes me wonder if all PSB songs were composed in this fashion. They are always very simple and direct but maintain their inimitable style by throwing in some humorous observation, “He wants to be, a graphic designer...Sexy northerner” (Sexy Northerner-B-side to Home and Dry).

I get the nagging feeling that despite having a percussionist and two live guitarists (who throughout the set are suspiciously low in the mix) there is a real lack of dynamics here that would normally thrill with a live drummer. The songs are rigidly programmed but this should be expected, from a duo always heavily studio based.

The highlight’s come just when I’m on the point of disappointment, “Love comes quickly” is simply beautiful and “Go West” has just the right amount of camp irony. Through the crowd mouthing the lyrics, is a lone bearded, leather bound biker, mincing as the sampled backing from the London Gay men’s choir chant “Together, this is our destiny!”
You could never accuse the Pet Shop Boys of being under ambitious but tonight Matthew this is the real thing.

Na’im Cortazzi

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