Monday, 28 May 2007

Pet Shop Boys Live in London: The Greatest Hats Show

Pet Shop Boys, Fundamental Tour, London Hammersmith Apollo, 27th May 2007

I wish I could lay claim to the above pithy description for the Pet Shop Boys' world tour, but that goes to rent-a-quip meister, Paul Morley. The motif of Neil's top hat and Chris's baseball cap was picked up by the stage designer, Es Devlin and used throughout this hat-tastic show. There were hats on wheels, hats in silhouette, cowboy hats (in gold sequins, of course) and army hats (plumed, thank you). This is the Pet Shop Boys' world inside their hats; inside their heads. Mad as a hatstand but totally engrossing. At one point, during Always On My Mind, the tap-dancing top hat seemed quite a normal thing to have on stage. Barking.

Hammersmith Apollo is a tatty old art deco theatre which is deceptively large (a sell-out 9,000 at tonight's gig). But because it's positioned under a motorway flyover and accessible either by dodging fast traffic or through a piss-stinking underpass, it's never a venue that makes you go "Oh great! They're playing there! My favourite!". Despite that, the squally weather, and the fact that I had to wait under the flyover for my fella, I had such a Doris Day demeanour: all sunshine and darn excitement! It was also a good chance to check out the crowd. There were the usual liquorice assortment of gayers (something for all tastes) but also a real cross section of ages (from the Fundamental yoof to the trendy pensioners), genders, races and sexual preferences (with lots of groups of straight lads!!).

But, to the show. The set list AND the set design are different to last year's. The cube is gone and replaced by a proscenium set which, although flat, still manages to add a cinematic backdrop to the band and their troupe; especially effective during Dreaming of the Queen, when Diana's funeral procession is looped behind them. The light sabre tubes bordering the set cleverly moved to change the size and shape to which someone behind me commented: "They love their fluorescent lighting, don't they?". Colourful, cheeky nods to Gilbert and George with projections of dancing hoodie youths during the Se a Vida e/Domino Dancing medley are something you could ONLY get with the PSB.

The cheer that erupted when the 'false' Neil and Chris came on first in front their respective silhouettes was glorious (I did think, "Hmm, they're both in really good shape"), but bettered by the real (softer edged) ones coming on. The image of the Boys is so iconic, especially to a room full of fans, that it's such a pant-wetting experience to see them, there, in front of you. And no, I didn't, BTW. The clever cleverness was there from the outset: they even began with We're the Pet Shop Boys. Ha!

Apparently, the choice of songs from the enormous back catalogue had to dovetail into the Fundamental concept, hence, the brilliant segue of Minimal into their other spelling song, Shopping. But that meant no New York City Boy, What Have I Done to Deserve This? and countless others. But no matter. I only noticed AFTER the show. I've never heard Heart live before, so to hear it and be sung back by very vocal audience was magical. At times, taking his earpiece out to listen, Neil was taken aback at just how full of voice the crowd were. Chris even smiled. A lot. Which, according to the man himself, is a good sign.

* The neon yellow hoodie top worn by Chris and his Lookie-likies
* Left to My Own Devices - seeing the French girl in front go mad to the line "Che Gevara and Debussy to a disco beat"
* The fighting hoodies during Suburbia
* I'm With Stupid - sounds better in a huge venue than iPod headphones
* The Neil and Chris heads (complete with baldy bits) wheeled on to Always on My Mind and bumping into each other noticably: like an amateur dramatics version of the PSB

* Integral - another song that sounded better live: monumental and a bit scary, like George Orwell on the mother of all comedowns
* Songs that are just a joy to see live: Rent, West End Girls and Domino Dancing
* Songs that are the hands in the air, ABBA-like singalongs: Always On My Mind, It's a Sin and Go West
* The eye candy backing singer Andy Love, Arjanwrites was right
* The voice of Sylvia Mason-James - her voice is so integral to the PSB sound that she was sorely missed on the Release tour. The wah-wahs on West End Girls never sounded better and louder (drowning Neil out at several points)
* The backing singers' 'moments' doing So Hard and the medley right at the end

After nearly a year on the road with the show, it was slick, fluid and well tuned. Like the stage shows Neil loves so much, there are 'buttons' dotted all over and in all the right places. Buttons to get the emotions going, buttons to get the arms waving and buttons to get everyone singing along. The boys quite emphatically, went down a storm at Hammersmith. So much so that they came back for a third encore with the never boring Being Boring. They left the stage happy as anything knowing they had done it. The London crowd were awed. But Chris never once took his hat off.

Thank you to the following for the use of their tour pics: Monica (Pet Shop Girl @, Venduka Polivkova, Jan Bayer and Tomas Mosler


xolondon said...

Yeah! Thanks for the review. Did Sylvia carry her purse on her arm during Shopping?

Brittle said...

Jealousy (on my part).

Andy Love really ought to have his head looked at, though.

Tricky said...

we should have said hello! What a shame.

Andy Love is *hot*, there's simply no way round it. All singing, all dancing, all pertness. I was a-Googling him this morning to hunt out his MySpace (it's out there) and see if there were any more shirtless shots.


Oh, and the music was good too

Phil said...

XO, Sylvia did indeed carry her purse like Royalty during Shopping, and quite rightly got a right royal cheer at the end.

Brittle, I'd love to look at more than Andy Love's head...

Tricky, Andy Love love. Yay! I'll dig more out... hehehehe