Live Report: Pet Shop Boys at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
Anyone who has ever witnessed the Pet Shop Boys live tends to expect a hi-energy audio-visual extravaganza; a day-glo dance party, the most euphoric open-air nightclub you could imagine. Well, enter the confusion of at least this correspondent upon entering the lush environs of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre and found the venue to be entirely seated…for the Pet Shop Boys?!
Thankfully, with Neil Tennant and co. bounding on stage to the contemporary techno stomp of recent song ‘Inner Sanctum’ and following it with the classic 1985 single ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lot’s of Money)’, the seated arose, popcorn and Magnum ice creams be damned!
What followed was an immaculate performance from Tennant and the immovable force that is Chris Lowe. The stage show is scaled back somewhat from previous Irish shows; replacing a succession of backing dancers and intricate prop displays is a prodigious trio of multitasking musicians on percussion, electro drums, violin, synthesisers, and backing vocals. It is refreshing to see the specific parts of the songs being physically performed, far more interesting than the interpretive dance spectacles of yore.
The setlist is structured exquisitely. If the concentration and patience is tested somewhat for the extended theatrical techno of The Dictator Decides and Inside a Dream, it isn’t before long that we are back in the palm of high-art pop genius with Home and Dry and It’s a Sin.
As always, Tennant’s vocals are note-perfect, seemingly unaltered with age in the thirty-odd years since his distinctive tone enriched ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Love Comes Quickly’, a sound which partly defines my childhood memories with their cultural ubiquity in the 1980s. The Pet Shop Boys have always managed to maintain relevant and modern while celebrating their back catalogue, itself an embarrassment of riches; and yet, while standing in front of Tennant belting out solid tunes from latest album Super, it’s hard not to nostalgically recall the Top of the Pops performances, or the clinical irony of the ‘Always on my Mind’ promo video.
Tennant seemed in particularly high spirits, and perhaps it was the intimacy of the venue that saw the singer more engaging with the audience that previous, larger scale concerts. So relaxed was the show – one could call it the chilliest rave ever seen – that Tennant even managed to sign a couple of autographs and give multiple high fives mid-song. There were moments where segments of the audience decided to take advantage of those comfy seats, but the frontman did his best to encourage audience participation and get people back on their feet to sing and dance. We duly obliged en masse.
As expected, the show is brought to a joyous end with an encore of ‘Domino Dancing’ and ‘Always on my Mind’ and thus ended an evening of perfect pop music and spirited performance from one of music’s most enduring live acts, despite the odd choice of venue.