Music

Reviewed: Pet Shop Boys @ LG Arena, Birmingham

The Pet Shop Boys’ globe-spanning Electric tour has been labelled “more of an art and design or theatre based production than a normal music show”, by their own production manager, no less. It wasn’t far into the show when it became clear that this claim was very accurate. Electric was both dramatic and captivating, and the incredible visuals were as relentless as the thumping dance beats that characterise the band’s inimitable sound.

The evening began with a cinematic experience that can only be inadequately described as being like an otherworldly roller coaster. This perfectly matched the tension built by the opening track ‘Axis’ creating an atmosphere as electric as their latest album title suggests. From here there were countless other treats for the eyes; from lasers, to lights to the dancers, even the band’s wardrobe was so awe-inspiring that at times it could almost put Lady Gaga in her place.

You could argue that the grand scale of the show could have been a poor decision, diverting focus from the band’s actual performance. However, given The Pet Shop Boys’ notorious habit of remaining stationary, this may not have been such a bad idea. Keyboardist Chris Lowe was relatively motionless unless he was required to change costume or stand in an upright bed (yeah, that happened) but Neil Tennant’s stage presence showed subtle signs of progression. Overall though, he still didn’t move much more than your average crooning lounge-musician. What was also nice was that the two occasionally broke from these stern, silent personas to tell us what a great audience we were.

In terms of the music itself, the duo was incredibly on point, sounding almost identical to record. Tennant’s voice was refreshingly fuller than the vocals of the new album Electric, which appear far more condensed than their previous albums. This gave their newer songs a vintage-feel akin to their earlier hits, which were saturated with reverb and chorus effects. Despite being an album tour, the diverse set list ensured that the gig didn’t feel like a sales pitch. Several tracks from their 2012 effort Elysium were featured, as well as other quintessential numbers like ‘Suburbia’, ‘West End Girls’, and ‘It’s A Sin’, which were, unsurprisingly, the biggest hits with the crowd.

Overall, the Electric tour appeared to be about dramatics. The visual aids, interludes between songs and the phenomenal dancers all contributed to the semblance of a story, which brought more to the table than your average gig. As a band the boys will never be renowned for their energy or crowd participation but, when their gigs can pack such a theatrical punch, does it really matter?

Pet Shop Boys continue their Electric tour in September. You can buy tickets here.

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