ASK your average music fan to name the best live acts around today and I doubt they’ll immediately consider Pet Shop Boys among them.
Yet a full house at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena were treated to a live masterclass from the veteran electronic duo who dazzled the partisan crowd with a stonking setlist all set to an arty array of 3D graphics and rave-esque laser beams.
After an extended DJ mixtape to warm up the punters, the boys, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, appear in sculpted spherical metal headgear and the circular art theme continues throughout the show.
Opening with Inner Sanctum, a tension-building dance track from latest album Super, they proceed quickly with Opportunities, their second 80s hit, as if to remind those less au fait with their newer works that it is indeed Neil and Chris behind the ‘masks’.
The Pop Kids, a semi-autobiographical rave-up, follows to crank up the crowd another notch on the dial and sees three youthful backing singers/multi-instrumentalists join the duo to add youthful energy to the stage.
Tennant announces “We are all the Pop Kids.” He’s right of course and the tone is set for an uplifting and unashamed celebration of pop music, on a Friday night too.
We were spoiled rotten with euphoric songs like Vocal from their last album Electric where they proclaim “Everything about tonight feels right and so young”. If ever a song lyric perfectly captured the moment that was it.
New versions of old classics like Left To My Own Devices go down a storm. Petheads, as they call themselves, love a remix.
The singalong continues with their first hit West End Girls which brings all to their feet and ends with an extended ovation. “We have to do that one,” quips Tennant. They’d be lynched if they didn’t and it still sounds as unique today as it did when it hit number one in 1986.
Another top tune from their first album “Please” is Love Comes Quickly. It’s a powerful and poignant ode to the inevitability of love that drew gasps from the crowd.
It’s clear to me many of us are reliving the experiences of love, heartache and even political turmoil – issues that Tennant and Lowe so brilliantly wrote about in our younger years – for a second time. Life comes full circle.
Love is A Bourgeois Construct confirms another view on the pitfalls of romance, while The Dictator Decides tells the story of a reluctant ruler seeking to strike a deal with his subservients to step down without a fuss. It’s all so defiantly Pet Shop Boys.
Ambient versions of Winner and Home and Dry add respite for the more mature crowd, many of whom have brought their children with them, before the electric pace cranks back up with Go West and crescendos on It’s A Sin which brought the house down.
They have the arena in the palm of their hands by now and Neil is revelling in his role of maestro for the night.
The crowd bay for more and they’re not left disappointed. The backing band return to start jamming the synth riffs from Domino Dancing before the boys join them and erupt into the song.
The arena erupts into full voice. Their work is done. We all join in one more time for Always on My Mind.
What a Super way to start the weekend.