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Concert Review: Pet Shop Boys

Concert Review: Pet Shop Boys

The Pet Shop Boys scored a series of hits here in the United States in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Songs such as “West End Girls” and “It’s a Sin” are a mainstay on ‘80s radio stations. However, the duo is anything but a nostalgia act. Despite a fickle American fan base, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe continue to record, releasing the acclaimed album Super this spring, the group’s second release in the past three years.

While Tennant and Lowe treated fans to a slew of hits at Portland’s Keller Auditorium, the show highlighted newer and rare material. This was not a pandering Greatest Hits tour but a show by a band that still considers itself relevant. Featuring a set designed by the renowned Es Devlin, who staged the opening ceremony in Rio, this Pet Shop Boys featured not only room-shaking music but a visual wonderland of laser beams and huge, illuminated balloons.

The show began with the duo appearing behind two large white circles, which were spun to reveal Tennant in what looked like a metallic shower cap and Lowe in a silver mask that resembled a disco ball. Without Pet Shop Boys, there would be no Daft Punk. The 23-song setlist balanced itself between new tracks and older cuts. After taking the stage to the new, rave banger “Inner Sanctum,” Tennant threw a bone to the crowd with “West End Girls” before shifting back to new single “The Pop Kids.” While the cell phone cameras came out along with the hits, the steady beat and infectious nature of the new songs kept people up and dancing. Longtime fans were rewarded with some unlikely set choices. “New York City Boy” from 1999’s Nightlife made an appearance along with B-side “In the Night.” Eventually, a backdrop was removed to reveal a three-piece band backing Tennant and Lowe.

“It’s a Sin” didn’t make an appearance until near the end of the first set. Elaborately staged with red lasers and swirling lights, the song’s power hasn’t diminished in the past 30 years. In many ways, it has taken on new resonance. When Tennant sings about looking back on his life with a sense of shame, that shadow has stretched on for three more decades. Hopefully, there has been some vindication since.

After finishing the first set with a rollicking version of “Go West” where Tennant allowed the audience to fill in some of the vocal bits, the Pet Shop Boys returned for an encore of “Domino Dancing” and “Always on My Mind,” the latter a song Tennant began with the disclaimer, “You’ll know this one.” It was a fitting end to an ecstatic 120 minutes. Less a summation than a provocation, this show proves that Pet Shop Boys should still be part of the musical conversation in 2016.

    • Venue:
      Keller Auditorium
    • City/State:
      Portland, OR
    • Date:
      10/25/16

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