Pet shop

four decades of keeping pop at a higher level

Forty years after their career, NME Godlike Geniuses’ Pet Shop Boys still hold a unique place in the pop firmament: as likely to soundtrack a 1920s Russian propaganda film as discuss TikTok’s role in pop if you cross paths with them. one of their Sunday afternoons at Berlin nightclub Berghain. It’s a distinctive position underscored tonight on their first Greatest Hits tour (and for the first time to play in Hull), which shows the range of styles and subject matter covered in their canon, and is a joyful two-hour celebration. of their decades of keeping pop above the norm.

Dressed in a typically outrageous headgear that resembles a Donnie Darko-style pandemic visor, vocalist Neil Tennant and ever deadpan synthesizer Chris Lowe open with 1986’s “Suburbia” – accompanied by two streetlights that might have been in those tense suburbs, which are regularly moved by roadies kitted out under construction workers. The Pet Shop Boys have long backed away from their ’80s no-tour policy, and their shows have become increasingly conceptual design and choreography shows. That said, this Dreamworld getaway is relatively understated (but only by their own standards which have already seen them joined by a retinue of dancers in inflatable costumes), instead making inventive use of those streetlights and a dazzling array of visuals, and placing the focus firmly on their titanium-coated shots, which continue to roll.

With the duo moving through an array of outlandish costumes (including one that could be described as The Pope on Mufti’s Day for Tennant; and a throwback to his “BOY” cap for Lowe), they run the gamut in their catalog. : from Imperial Phase (an expression coined by Tennant for a period of commercial infallibility) classics like the throbbing ‘Heart’, the tender ‘Rent’, until their cover of ‘Losing My Mind’ by Stephen Sondheim (which they originally produced for Liza Minelli in 1989) to acoustic guitar led (despite once joking that the instrument should be banned) ‘You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk’ to 2013’s euphoric banger ‘Vocal ‘, which boasts of a drop like open manhole.

Coming from 2020’s stellar ‘Hotspot’ album (which completes a purple patch trilogy produced by Stuart Price), two tracks from this record are performed – ‘Dreamland’, their collaboration with Olly Alexander (band member Clare Uchima replaces the the singer of Years & Years Tonight – as she does for the late Dusty Springfield on “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”) and the carefree Daft Punk-ish “Monkey Business”. The former smuggles lyrics about the refugee crisis under his bright pop hooks, and it’s not the only political song that feels particularly resonant tonight: their 1988 cover of the Sterling Void rave anthem ” It’s Alright’, featuring a ticker of headlines about war-torn countries in turmoil, feels timely in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – while Tennant even alters the lyrics to ‘West End Girls’ for ‘From Mariupol to Kyiv station‘, replacing the 1984 original ‘From Lake Geneva to Finland Station‘.

The grandiose “It’s a Sin,” which got a new lease on life as the soundtrack to last year’s Russell T Davies drama of the same name, is predictable. but it is the closing “Being Boring”, dedicated to “those we have lost along the way”, which is their swan song: a magnificent lamentation over the passage of time and a worthy tribute to the one who died in the AIDS crisis, where the devastating kiss offline “All the people I used to kiss/Some are there and some are gonetakes on added meaning after COVID. Surveying the crowd, Tennant praised, “Incredible! I think it’s my favorite Tuesday of the year! and few here could disagree with him.

The Pet Shop Boys performed:

“Suburb”
‘Can you forgive him?’
‘Opportunities (Let’s make a lot of money)’
“Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)”
‘Lease’
“I don’t know what you want but I can’t give you anymore”
‘Very difficult’
“Left to my own devices”
‘Mono-bilingual / ‘Se a vida é (that’s how life is)’
‘Domino Dance’
‘Monkey Business’
“New York Boy”
“You only tell me you love me when you’re drunk”
‘Jealousy’
“Love Comes Fast”
‘Losing the mind’
‘You were always on my mind’
‘Dreamland’
‘Heart’
‘What have I done to deserve this?’
‘It’s OK’
‘Vocal’
‘Go West’
‘It’s a sin’
‘West End Girls’
‘Be boring’