Pet Shop Boys - Live At The O2 Arena, London

A celebration of pomp, ceremony and outlandish headgear...

After initially dismissing playing live as something only for traditional rock bands such as U2 early in their career, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s change of heart at the end of the ‘80s is something of a gift to the art of live performance. Pet Shop Boys are proven masters of the theatrical, an all-inclusive mixture of drama, art and high camp.

Their live show is a celebration of pomp, ceremony and outlandish headgear, all soundtracked by an embarrassment of musical riches.

With so many classics under their belt, it would be easy to just continue to roll out the hits like the heritage act they now are. Many are, of course, performed tonight, alongside songs from their forthcoming Stuart Price-produced ‘Electric’ album and lesser-known tracks. It all comes together to keep any PSB fan happy.

Continuing the relationship with Price, who beefed up their live sound so effectively for 2009’s 'Pandemonium' tour, the 'Electric' tour has the boys revisiting the harder end of the back catalogue. Tracks are rebooted and given a contemporary, rambunctious sheen.

The show is a sensory attack. There’s big-room trance in the form of ‘Axis’ and ‘Vocal’, nodding to their ‘Nightlife’ era. There is eye-melting green lasers, headwear made from disco balls, psychedelic black holes, synthesisers made from fluro circuit boards. At one point they stand behind a screen projecting the writhing bodies of young partying women, with Neil and Chris’ heads poking up at the top.

There are some odd song choices, though: ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing’ and ‘Miracles’ get the nod over tracks such as ‘Left To My Own Devices’ and ’Being Boring’.

New track ‘Thursday’ is great until a very unwelcome guest appearance from Example: a rapper so bad at his trade he makes Lowe sound like Kanye West. It’s a bizarre coupling that simply does not work.

They do, however, plunge deeper into their catalogue. Lost gems ‘I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)’ and ‘I’m Not Scared’ get a welcome dusting down, and ‘Rent’ is transformed into 21st century pounding electro, with jaw-grinding brilliance. And, of course, ‘West End Girls’ is a song that will never die.

After the highs of the ‘Pandemonium’ tour, ‘Electric’ feels scaled down. Although not stripped-back in the slightest, this performance is Neil and Chris toning down their OTT approach. It’s less preposterous... but more in keeping with the reasons we fell in love them with them in the first place.

Words: Chris Todd

Photos: Rachel Lipsitz

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