Concert review: Pet Shop Boys in Dublin

It was like a convention  of men who maintain a personal skin-care regime, so it was.

What I hear you ask?

Well the Pet Shop Boys – who played a gig in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin last night – of course. I had acquired tickets when they had gone on sale some months earlier.

I have always liked the Pet Shop Boys. I’d never been a huge fan of the group though. They were a constant presence in the soundtrack of my youth, emerging in the mid 1980s when I was becoming a pop music obsessive. I was about ten years old when ‘West End Girls’ became a smash hit. I liked the song very much, but at the same time was a little bit intimidated by how sophisticated and arch the band appeared and sounded. How very posh they looked.

How foolish was I? Little did I know that Neil Tennant had worked on the bible of pop music – Smash Hits; was from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (well close by) and was a massive supporter of the Labour Party (to my prejudiced ten year old eyes – he looked like more of a Margaret Thatcher fan. And even at that young age I knew that the Tories were rotten. )

Something also seemed a little bit ‘odd’ about them. A little bit gay maybe? This was before I even knew that I was one of ‘them’. It was a sense I felt though.  I was running from that idea. I preferred to listen the safer, manlier, more heterosexual pop music of the likes of George Michael.

I wasn’t the brightest tool in the shed, I will admit. (Although there was nothing heterosexual about the unspeakable thoughts I had for George Michael).

The Pet Shop Boys remained a enjoyable presence in my pop landscape. I liked their music (loving individual songs). But the band themselves flew under my radar.

Until 1999 when they released ‘New York City Boy’. Oh the glamour of that record – it captured the yearning to escape to somewhere more glamourous, more exciting, more free. It sounded so very gay. Which is convenient as by that point I was a homosexual with travel plans. Amsterdam bound.

I had finally been convinced. This was not simply a group with some banging tunes. They were something special. I have followed them ever since.

Last night’s show was fantastic. It started bang on time at eight o’clock – with an immediate driving pace. The audience was on their feet the lights rose on Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

The lighting effects were intense- in that electronic, industrial style, with a backdrop to match the beat of the song.

This was pop music to dance to.

Neil Tennant was as charming as ever – and seemed to be genuinely surprised and pleased by the rapturous applause. Then again, maybe he’s like that with all the boys? He was in fine voice – witty, sharply dressed and ironic in tone. For someone without a massive voice, he can infuse his vocals with great warmth and meaning and pathos. Bless him, he’s no dancer though. I didn’t care. He was in fine fettle. The audience was ecstatic. Who cared that he was clapping his hands along like the clumsy uncle at a family wedding? I certainly didn’t. Neither did my neighbours. We roared in appreciation. He seemed so happy. Happiness is infectious.

Chris Lowe was as sour-faced, emotionless and sullen as he always is.  His head was covered by a bronze helmet when the show started – he only revealed his trademark cap; shades and scowl for song four. He has brought lack of interaction with an audience to dizzying levels. You’d almost be horrified if he engaged with the crowd. Although when Tennant was introducing the band at the end of the show, Chris Lowe’s glorious reception did cause a smile to fleetingly break out on his face. What a legend.

They played so many hits. ‘West End Girls’; ‘Opportunities’; ‘Domino Dancing’; ‘Go West’; ‘It’s a Sin’; ‘Left to my own devices’; ‘Se a vida e’; ‘New York City Boy’; ‘Love comes quickly’.

They left out so many hits – but with a discography like theirs they couldn’t play them all. The only song that I was very anxious to hear that was missed was ‘Suburbia’. That song spoke to me, growing up in Limerick. You can’t always get what you want though.

The finale was ‘Always on my mind’ which was well received (although personally  I think ‘It’s a sin’ would have been more heart-stopping.)

It wasn’t perfect – concerts never are. But it was wonderful. The only way I can conceive it being better is if Liza Minnelli (one of their previous collaborators) had emerged from a wedding cake, singing ‘Suburbia’ in her Liza drawl.

‘Letsh take a ride, run with the dogsh tonight. In Shuburbia.’

An absolute triumph of a show.


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