They’re known for their one-word album titles but no single word could sum up the Pet Shop Boys’ latest live show. It’s fantastic, dazzling, celebratory, witty, wacky and euphoric – like being at the world’s best disco and its most fun party.
Setting up a four-night residency at London’s magnificent Royal Opera House, the Inner Sanctum show opened on Wednesday night to thunderous applause, beaming smiles and hands-in-the-air rapture from a full house of fans (and a few celebs like David Walliams and Barbara Windsor) savouring a rare chance to see their pop idols up close and personal rather than as specs on an arena stage.
Neil Tennant, still in fine, quirky voice at age 62, and Chris Lowe, as enigmatic and cool at age 56 as he ever was, are ironic showmen whose poise is at interesting odds with their joyful music. Yes, they’ve done downbeat songs but new album Super, produced like 2013’s Electric by Stuart Price, is an upbeat dance bonanza that provides the backbone for this most upbeat of shows.
The new tracks get the joint jumping, but Tennant and Lowe aren’t just out to plug new music; they mine their back catalogue for hits and fan favourites, packing as much as they can into a breathless two hours. DoingWest End Girls as the evening’s second song might seem risky, but it’s not like the PSBs are one-hit wonders. The most successful duo in the history of UK music, with more than 50 million sales under their designer belts, they’ve also got It’s A Sin and Always On My Mind and Domino Dancing and Love Comes Quickly and Go West and countless other gems.
Visually the new production is a stunner. It’s a smorgasbord of balloons and wigs and peculiar headgear (inspired, perhaps, by Brian De Palma’s bonkers Phantom Of The Paradise?) and lasers and lights and back projections. At times it’s minimalist, with just one dancer accompanying New York City Boy. At others it’s epic, with 20-plus hoofers filling the stage in bright inflated suits like an invasion of deranged Teletubbies.
At the centre of it all are Neil and Chris, the self-styled Pop Kids of their Billboard dance chart-topping single, having an absolute blast and hosting an irresistible ball. They’ve just announced a 2017 tour, which I imagine will expand on the production but will, I hope, keep the tracklist and the visuals and those inflatable dancers from what amounts to the greatest pop party of all time.
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Words by Simon Button