Bord Gais Theatre – Dublin
They called us the Pop Kids
Cause we loved the pop hits
And quoted the best bits
So we were the Pop Kids
I have loved The Pet Shop Boys (hereafter PSB, no not THAT lot but they are great too) since the punchy beat and swirling wind of ‘West End Girls’ (not the 1st issue, wasn’t that trendy a pop kid) in 1985. Echoes of Ghost Town along with Neil Tennant’s distinctive deadpan delivery of arguably the greatest opening couplet, like, evs and I was smitten. I haven’t got the aversion to arch or cooly detached that some suffer from. My7 attention in their career wavered in the 2000’s (as possibly did theirs) but they’ve had a strong run of albums in the 21st Century although the latest ‘Super’ is a bit pony.
Despite this admiration I had never got to see them live – they rarely toured during their “imperial phase” perhaps too aware that Raw Sex’s spoof of their image “me, I’m good at standing still, you stand behind me with a keyboard someone has lent you” suggested their music wasn’t made for the stage. The decline of people actually buying records has made the need to tour to pay the rent a necessity. Thing is that they’ve become very good at it in a stylish way rather than the overblown egotism of stadium acts like U2, Coldplay etc
So the annual Irish roadtrip this year was a quick hop over to Dublin to see PSB in the fairly intimate Bord Gais Theatre – beautifully designed inside and painfully modern from the outside. From the Upper Circle for the first of a pair of instantly sold out nights we had a great view of the stage and full effect of the impressive lighting setup that would dominate the night, the sub bass throbbing as an intro as people slowly filtered in from the bar.
Neil and Chris appeared as if by magic, adorned with metal headgear, in front of two large circles either side of the stage before Chris took his post behind keyboard rig and Neil slowly prowled the monitor line. Despite his image of slightly bemused and embarrassed detachment, Neil was not averse to yelling ‘DUBLIN!’ in between songs in a rousing fashion. Unlike other acts of their vintage they have not slid into a nostalgia act and it was clear from the opening ‘Inner Sanctum’ from the so-so ‘Super’ that they had ‘new’ and we would hear it.
The duo were aided by two drummers percussionists (one regular drumkit / one electronic) plus extra keyboard, violin and beats from another. As to how much was actually being played live, I don’t think it really matters, this wasn’t Kraftwerk levels of inactivity – that band were tight and on it with the sound immaculate, bass kicking and the highs sharp. When I had seen Elvis Costello there three years earlier the sound had been muddy and vocals buried but it wasn’t the case tonight – a delight.
Although the set was heavy on recent adventures there was still room for “deep cuts” and ver hits – ‘Opportunities’ signalling the first roar from the crowd but I was particularly thrilled to hear ‘In The NIght’ originally the B-side to the aforementioned single and the glorious Sodom & Gomorrah Show from ‘Fundamental’. The songs from ‘Super’ were given extra energy played live and ‘The Dictator Decides’ with images of battling insects mixed with militarialist material as a backdrop was the nights darkest moment.
As there wasn’t much movement on stage the lights and projections had to reflect as well as enhance the music in ways that a glittery jacket (ala Father Ted & Dougal in the My Lovely Horse promo film) Neil sported for most of the show could not. Hits were played but with a modern feel and edge thatr some might see as heresy when it came to ‘Left To My Own Devices’ sans Anne Dudley’s divebombing strings replaced with sparse trance drones and scattered beats. Hearing a couple of thousand people sing ‘Che Guevara & Debussy to a disco beat’ was still thrilling thou.
“This is called Love Come Quickly, it used to go like that, now it goes like this” Neil Tennant didn’t drawl as another 30+ year old tune was given some fresh fairy dust and hits came in a similar rush – Go West, West End Girls, It’s A Sin, Domino Dancing, ending the night with one of the best Xmas number one’s ever (that kept Fairytale of New York from the top spot) the non-festive ‘Always On My Mind’
Dancing, smiling singing, having fun
It made me think..
In an alternate universe they played ‘Being Boring, ‘Suburbia’, ‘So Hard’, ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ ‘Heart’ (although we got a couple of lines of that), ‘You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk’, ‘Rent’, ‘It’s Alright’, ‘Jealousy, ‘DJ Culture’ ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’ or (as it was Dublin, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ but it was a fabulous night in this reality showing the quality of their work. The pop kids still rule, ok?