People ask me what’s the best concert I’ve ever seen. My Pet Shop Boys experience in 2009 comes to mind as one of them. So you can imagine how excited I was to check out their new tour supporting Electric, the Boys’ 12th studio album. They played two nights at the Beacon and I went to both. First with my friend Dan as he and I both worship the parquet dance floor the Pet Shop Boys walk on. The second night with my friend Brian who isn’t a devout fan, but he is now.
As artists, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe energize me. Long criticized for lacking ‘stage presence,’ I’m always curious to see how they create rich, dynamic environments in their shows and make them so memorable. The 2009 Pandemonium Tour featured evolving cubes that changed the set. The Electric Tour does it with ‘heavy use of lasers, strobes and haze’ as signs warned entering the Beacon. The warm-up act was Jacques Lu Cont, aka Stuart Price, the super-producer responsible for Madonna’s Confessions album, Kylie’s Aphrodite, Seal’s System, The Killers’ Day & Age, Keane’s Perfect Symmetry, Scissor Sisters’ Night Work and of course Pet Shop Boys’ Electric. Genius.
They opened with ‘Axis,’ the first single released off Electric. In true PSB fashion, it was a dramatic entrance featuring fast-moving video of London tube tunnels that made you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. Subtly, the boys appeared behind a translucent screen and performed a mash-up of ‘One More Chance’ from Actually and ‘Face Like That,’ off their last album Elysium. Highlights of the first half of the show included ‘Fugitive’ and ‘Integral’ from the 2006 album Fundamental, ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing’ from my coming-of-age album Very in 1993 and my all-time favorite, ‘Suburbia.’ It would go on to be the biggest sing-a-long of the night. The latter two songs were performed with two dancers shimmying in pagan horned masks.
‘Fluorescent,’ off Electric, brought to life the essence of this tour’s set — lighting design. Pretty impressive and appropriate for the song’s title. It led to the crowd-pleasing ‘West End Girls’ and a sample of their over-the-top, disco-tinged ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story. I had forgotten they covered that. The coolest stunt happened between the sheets as Neil and Chris performed ‘Love Etc.’ in bed as their heads were superimposed on two bodies stretching, twisting, dancing. Great effect.
The last part of the show was when they pulled out all the stops. Starting with ‘Rent’ and the insanely good ‘It’s a Sin’ which put the Beacon Theatre into maximum overdrive. Their encores included my other favorite PSB song, ‘Domino Dancing’ and the Brenda Lee cover ‘Always on My Mind.’ They have a penchant for choosing the most unlikely but perfectly executed covers. That observation holds true with the Village People’s ‘Go West’ which is my official coming out song from back in 1993 and ’94. Memories of Backstreet Atlanta storm my brain. They closed with ‘Vocal’ off Electric and proved that these boys are more than just relevant. They’re EDM royalty.
The only disappointment for me was that they didn’t perform my three favorite songs off Electric: ‘Inside a Dream,’ ‘Love is Bourgeois Construct’ and a Bruce Springsteen cover, ‘Last to Die.’ But don’t fret as I have them leading off my playlist of favorite PSB songs: