Pet Shop Boys strip back to go full elec­tric

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

One of the pi­o­neer­ing acts in elec­tron­ica, Pet Shop Boys blurred the line be­tween mu­sic and theater with elab­o­rate, quirky con­certs that made crowds dance and chuckle at once. Thirty-five years since Neil Ten­nant and Chris Lowe formed the duo in Lon­don, elec­tronic dance mu­sic with ex­trav­a­gant shows has be­come the norm on the live scene-and Pet Shop Boys are again chart­ing their own way. “Su­per,” the 13th al­bum by Pet Shop Boys, is their sec­ond straight re­lease that is purely elec­tronic, with none of the in­stru­men­ta­tion from pi­ano to strings to Latin drums that sprin­kled ear­lier work. The first sin­gle, “The Pop Kids,” sets the tone for the lat­est Pet Shop Boys pe­riod with singer Ten­nant and key­boardist Lowe em­brac­ing the joys of club life yet un­abashedly tak­ing the van­tage point of el­ders.

“We stayed out ‘til late five nights a week / And felt so chic / They called us The Pop Kids,” Ten­nant sang of the Lon­don club life of yes­ter­year in his quickly rec­og­niz­able voice, high-pitched and el­e­gantly un­der­stated. In tour­ing for the al­bum re­leased ear­lier this year, Pet Shop Boys are also strip­ping back. Per­form­ing Satur­day night in New York, the duo pre­sented the mu­si­cal roots of elec­tron­ica, per­form­ing not as show­men but as a full-fledged band. “At the end of this strange and sig­nif­i­cant week, what bet­ter place to be than among friends?” asked Ten­nant, re­fer­ring to the shock pres­i­den­tial elec­tion vic­tory of Repub­li­can ty­coon Don­ald Trump. “Tonight, New York, you are The Pop Kids.”

Theatrics, but mu­sic fo­cus

Ten­nant and Lowe en­tered The Theater at Madi­son Square Garden with typ­i­cal piz­zazz, with each of them strapped to an oval white screen that flipped 180 de­grees to face the crowd. Sport­ing over­sized metal­lic hel­mets, Pet Shop Boys opened with “In­ner Sanc­tum,” a steamy house club track off “Su­per,” be­fore go­ing straight into “West End Girls,” the duo’s very first sin­gle. The duo quickly drew open a cur­tain to trans­form it­self into a five-piece act, with two per­cus­sion­ists and another key­boardist join­ing the show.

As if re­in­forc­ing the idea that elec­tron­ica can be a band affair, the stage trans­formed for “Left to My Own De­vices,” the three back-up mu­si­cians glid­ing up­front even as the beat went deeper into the club vibe. In con­trast to much dance mu­sic, Pet Shop Boys songs nearly al­ways pos­sessed a deeper layer of irony or melan­choly.

For “Home and Dry,” a for­lorn tale of the lone­li­ness of longdis­tance love, the back-up mu­si­cians en­cir­cled Ten­nant to ac­com­pany him as a mini-choir. On “Love Comes Quickly,” Pet Shop Boys up­dated another early hit into the con­tem­po­rary club age, with a sul­trier syn­the­sized back­drop. The stage vi­su­als ran from bright il­lu­mi­nated bal­loons to pro­jec­tions of pink-and-psy­che­delic re­volv­ing cubes.

But the show fo­cused on the mu­sic rather than the theatrics, with none of the wild chore­ographed rou­tines or an­i­mal cos­tumes that char­ac­ter­ized Pet Shop Boys’s pre­vi­ous “Elec­tric” tour. In ev­i­dence of the ded­i­ca­tion to the mu­sic, Ten­nant abruptly stopped one of the new tracks, “Twenty-Some­thing,” notic­ing that a key­board patch had gone awry. “There’s no point do­ing it wrong,” Ten­nant said, not­ing wryly a lyric he had just sung: “Life is much more sim­ple when you’re young.”—


Mu­si­cian Neil Ten­nant of Pet Shop Boys per­forms on­stage at The Theater at Madi­son Square Garden in New York City.

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