JAccording to the demographics here, the Pet Shop Boys 2022 audience ranges from 18-year-old girls to middle-aged men in suits, from bachelorette parties to artsy intellectuals. Their wide constituency reflects the electro-pop duo’s status as the best-selling duo in British pop, and a musical reach that stretches from Italian house to Tchaikovsky samples.
Vocalist Neil Tennant and synthesizer Chris Lowe are also prominent pop showmen. This latest outing begins relatively minimally – with streetlights staged for the debut hit Suburbia – before Left to My Own Devices unveils the live (electronic) percussionists and retina-burning infographics powering their show.
The two-hour, 26-song extravaganza spans a 40-year career and has a few surprises in store. Tennant, presumably selecting his various goofy costumes from a box marked “awesome Bond villain”, becomes an unlikely acoustic guitar ballad for Drunk. He reveals that Domino Dancing was inspired by a friend’s ‘victory dance’ after playing dominoes in a cheap hotel in St. Lucia and that 2020’s excellent Monkey Business is titled after something a cheeky Texas cowboy told them.
Their songs feel like miniature kitchen sink dramas – the couple struggling with fidelity in It’s Hard, the painful reminders of a breakup in Losing My Mind or the power imbalances in Rent. Tennant, irresistibly now 67, brings delicate theatrical touches – a shoulder shrug or a wiggling finger (in It’s a Sin) – and is one of our most unmistakable singers, his inimitable tones somehow able to express excitement and desire at the same time.
There’s a tender moment as the singer dedicates a sweet Being Boring to the lives lost in the pandemic and the bombing of this place five years ago this weekend. Otherwise, classic bangers come with indecent regularity. Lowe dons his ’80s “BOY” cap for West End Girls, while other highlights include a beautifully melancholic Love Comes Quickly and an incredibly catchy Heart. Band member Clare Uchima excels as Dusty Springfield for a sublime What Have I Done to Deserve This. “Fabulous!” shouts Tennant, and there it is.