Pet Shop Boys @ Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham – 24 February 2017

Posted by Gig Junkies on Friday Feb 24, 2017 Under Electronica, Pop

Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown  with photography by Ken Harrison

From West end girls and East end boys, to the boys and girls of the West Midlands, as this multi-awarding winning 80s electronica band, that continue to record , recently issuing their thirteen offering, tonight bring their show to the Barclaycard Arena. In 2016 Billboard magazine named this duo as the #1 Dance / duo group over their charts inception –  not bad for two blokes who met in an electronics shop in London 36 years ago. Birmingham welcomes tonight, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, better known as The Pet Shop Boys.

PSB -2

So tonight. No support, tickets say that Pet Shop Boys will be on stage at 7.30pm, the PR have said 8pm sharp, the venue website says 8.15pm.  At twenty five past the hour – some enthusiastic fans on the floor engage a Mexican wave, which eventually takes hold, rolling round the arena. The venue is two thirds full, bar to the side of the stage, the top tier seats on the sides are booked off by curtains. After the trance, dance musical backdrop finally stops, the lights go down and the boys actually take to the stage at 8.35pm…

PSB -1

So the set lights up, and rotating into view from behind two spherical screens, Tennant and Lowe appear, dressed in black with metal headsets. Tonight’s set features the old and the new – the hits – first up the Thatcher-objecting ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’ to ‘The Pop Kids’ (off their latest and thirteenth album ‘Super.’) “They called us the pop kids, ‘cause we loved the pop hits…” and certainly PSB made their most noticeable marks during the 80s poptastic electrionica revolution, amassing through their 30 odd year career over 50 million sales….

PSB have a winning formulae and stick to it, tweaking with inspiration from the electronica developments into dance, trance, rave, beat and house.  According to the Guinness Book of Records, PSB are the most successful duo in UK music, with three Brits six Grammy’s and 42 top 30 singles under their belt. Not bad for a former Smash Hits journalist who turned from commenting on the pop music screen to being part of it.

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PSB didn’t play live for many years in their early career and took time to consider how they would translate their immense studio ability to the live stage. Electronica bands have always had that minor ‘difficulty’ of blokes stood behind keyboards not moving – and Lowe has always embraced this role. Some bands have compensated by having a dynamic or extravagant or massively charismatic frontsperson – take Andy Bell or Dave Gahan for example. Tenant is far more nonchalant in his mannerisms, pacing the stage and with his vocals mostly spoken, it is left to the music, the hits, the trio of drumming electronica support musicians at the rear to raise the show and the creative visual effects if the lighting experts.

As you would expect – it is the hits that are the stand out ‘ West End Girls’, ‘It’s A Sin’ and the campuses of ‘Go West.’  I have to say I felt they were quite flat only in so much I expected more of an extravaganza; however I was watching from the dizzying heights of the gods, so high up I could almost touch the roof, and to the side of the stage so I didn’t get the full visual effect of the lighting.

And slightly distracted by a person who insisted on Facebooking live the first few songs of the set. The fans tonight enjoyed the party, I could see them bopping away, and for a band with years behind them and with a question on how long they will tour (Tennant’s into his 60s)  they are still recording, still out there, their latest album debuted at #3 in the UK Album charts. They do have those iconic tunes, a band that have in some ways somewhat surprisingly, held their own and then some, against many peers that have fallen away. But as with any a great band – we left with those tunes running through our minds…..

Inner Sanctum
Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
The Pop Kids
In The Night
Love Is A Bourgeois Construct
New York City Boy
Se A Vida E (That’s The Way Life Is)
Loves Comes Quickly
Love Etc
The Dictator Decides
Inside A dream
West End Girls
Home And Dry
The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
It’s A Sin
Left To My Own Devices
Go West

Domino Dancing
Always On My Mind
The Pop Kids (Reprise)


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