[ATTENDED: November 10, 2016] Pet Shop Boys
I bought tickets for this Pet Shop Boys show back in May. I have never seen them before, but the more I realized that I like nearly all of their albums (odd for a rocker, I know), and the more I read about their amazing light show, the more I realized I wanted to see them. Especially in small venue like Morristown Performing Arts Center.
And then the shocking election happened.
Boy was I ever not in the mood for a fun night after that horrible horrifying news. But I’d spent a lot of money (seriously) on tickets, and thought that maybe the Pet Shop Boys could snap me out of my despair somewhat.
And did they ever.
I met my friend Mary Lynn there, but she had seats upstairs. Her seats may have actually been better since she could see the whole spectacle perhaps a little better. But it was fun to chat before and after the show.
The Mayo Center is a seated venue, but for the Pet Shop Boys everyone was on their feet. Some people hated this, but really it’s the best way to see a show, especially if you need to dance. Unless of course the person in front of you is very tall. And drunk. (Honestly the people in front of me were very drunk and talking through much of the show. Assholes. Mary Lynn said the girls in front of her were talking and looking at their phone the whole show, too. Who spends that much money to ignore what you paid for?).
As we waited for the show to start, there was dance music playing and two giant discs on stage. When the official PSB music started, the lights dimmed and the discs began to display cool lights. And then lights projected from behind the discs. And then the discs rotated revealing Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. It was a wonderfully dramatic entrance. They were wearing big metal helmets and slowly moved over to their respective stations. Lowe moved to his rack of keyboards and whatever else and Tennant stood, microphone in hand.
While many bands that have been around forever play greatest hits shows (even if they have a new album out), Pet Shop Boys have always been different. And that’s why on this tour, out of the 23 songs, six were from their recent album Super (marked with an * on the setlist below) and 3 were from the previous album Electric (marked with an **).
They opened with “Inner Sanctum” from the new album. And Neil Tennant sounded fantastic. While I realize he doesn’t really sing in the conventional sense (he sing/speaks a lot), his voice sounded amazing–rich and resonant and exactly what I had hoped it would sound like. For the first few songs it was just the two of them onstage. Chris Lowe stood behind his technology and Neil stood out in the open, accepting our adoration.
And while I noted that they played a lot of new songs, the second song was an excellent rendition of “West End Girls” (which the crowd went bonkers for.
The discs stayed on stage and then were soon replaced by a gigantic screen behind them. The “theme” of this tour was circles, clearly. And so, once the discs were gone, a gigantic circle appeared behind them.
And from then on, it was a fascinating mix of newer songs and more or less one song from each of their older records. And each song was accompanied by a great light show. Whether the giant circle was employed as a kind of screen for images or lights, or the lights came from the stage and covered all of us, the effects were spectacular.
The Pet Shop Boys are known for their costume changes–crazy outfits and all. But the changes weren’t very dramatic tonight. Their robotic helmets came off after a couple of songs (Lowe’s was removed for him while he was playing and replaced with sunglasses and a hat). Tennant switched to a suit for a number of songs.
After playing their newest single, the super catchy “The Pop Kids,” they dug all the way back to their debut for “In the Night” (“Zazou, what you gonna do?”). This got the crowd dancing and shaking around. It was right around this time that the curtain which the big circle was projected upon dropped, revealing the rest of the band–three percussionists (one played keyboards and one played violin, too). And they launched into the great dance track “Burn” (we’re gonna burn this disco down before the morning comes).
And then it was back to new songs with “Burn” and one of my favorite newer songs “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct.”
The remainder of the 14 songs not from new albums were a collection of greatest hits. But not the expected ones. In fact, the next two were hits that I had forgotten about: “New York City Boy” (which drew huge applause) and “Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is)” which I feel may have been the least well received song of the night.
“Love Comes Quickly” brought anyone not on their feet back to their feet (the guy behind me sang the “ooh ooh” part quite loudly). And the great chants of “don’t have to be” were a lot of fun to sing along with during “Love Etc”: “Don’t have to be…beautiful, but it helps.”
As I groused about the idiots in front of me, I wound up spending much of my time in the aisle–it was the only way I could see around these behemoths. I was chagrined that the guy right behind me had run down the aisle pretty early in and seemed to get absorbed int the crowd up front. There were a number of empty seats, whether from lack of interest or election malaise who can say.
Things quieted down as they played the creepily appropriate “The Dictator Decides” (with Tennant in a suitably dictatorial outfit). The segue into the rather dark but dancey “Inside a Dream” was pretty excellent. And they continued playing one song from each of their albums. The catchy “Home and Dry” was followed by “The Enigma” a song from their musical about Alan Turing. I didn’t realize that that’s what it was, but I’d love to hear it again.
As they played the super dancey “Sodom and Gomorrah Show” it occurred to me that there was going to be no intermission–not sure why I thought there would be one. So I headed down the aisle to join the dancing masses (I haven’t been to a seated show where the ushers were so mellow about cameras and standing in the aisle).
And despite the song sounding different, the first song I got to hear from up close was “It’s a Sin.” They re-imagined a couple of the songs them with different music/beats (although Tennant’s vocal stayed mostly the same).
By this time he had switched to a shiny silver jacket (at least up close where I was now (row J!). And they played “Left to My Own Devices,” which was also great to hear in this new version.
He asked us if we’d like to hear another old song re-imagined. And he started chanting “I’ve got the brains…” But he didn’t really play “Opportunities” rather, it was a kind of mash up with their cover of the Village People’s “Go West.” I’ve always liked this song (I even have the Village People version on vinyl, although PSB’s version is better). And what I loved at this point was that all of the dark/laser beam scene was lifted and the stage was lit up and filled with these wonderful balloons. And we all sang along (with Neil in his gold jacket).
There were dozens of songs they could have played for their encore. Heck there were at least fifteen songs that I would have loved to hear (“Yesterday When I was Mad” is one of my favorites).
They ended with two classics: “Domino Dancing” and a great version of “Always on My Mind.” And at some point some large balloons floated from somewhere and we all bopped them around.
Tennant introduced the band (and himself and Chris as he Pet Shop Boys) and they did a reprise of “The Pop Kids” and left the stage while the band played the song for a few measures before ending.
The sound was phenomenal at the venue (as usual) and Tennant commented twice on how they’d never been there before–which hopefully means they come back).
This was a great show and it was the joyful mood lifter that I needed.
West End Girls [Please]
The Pop Kids*
In the Night [Please]
Love Is a Bourgeois Construct**
New York City Boy [Nightlife]
Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is) [Bilingual]
Love Comes Quickly [Please]
Love Etc. [Yes]
The Dictator Decides*
Inside a Dream**
Home and Dry [Release]
The Enigma [A Man from the Future]
The Sodom and Gomorrah Show [Fundamental]
It’s a Sin [Actually]
Left to My Own Devices [Introspective]
Go West/Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) [Very/Please]
Domino Dancing [Introspective]
Always on My Mind [Introspective]
The Pop Kids (Reprise)*