Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys – Review

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Pet Shop Boys’ first tour, in 1989, took place in arenas and, though they’ve performed in every size of venue since, they still work best with a large canvas. Committed to the idea of pop as theatre, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe achieve a deft balance of energy, warmth, wit and spectacle that most younger, bigger pop stars struggle to match.

Like 2009’s hit-packed Pandemonium tour, this is a collaboration with producer Stuart Price and designer Es Devlin, but it has a more challenging setlist, weaving in new songs from last year’s low-key Elysium and the forthcoming dancefloor-dedicated Electric. The key is momentum. Despite being divided into five sections, each with its own mood and outlandish headgear, the show moves as seamlessly as a DJ set. Songs are remixed or merged. Deep cuts segue into Top 10 classics. Slower numbers serve as carefully positioned breathers.

Devlin’s design is typically clever and sumptuous. Lowe reappears for Leaving with his head encased in a disco mirrorball and Love Etc finds the duo in adjacent upright beds, with writhing dancers’ bodies projected on the sheets beneath their heads. The two dancers spend half the set wearing masks resembling shaggy minotaur skulls, like pagan ravers. There’s even a surprise guest, rapper Example, on joyous new song Thursday.

Example’s alpha-male swagger highlights Pet Shop Boys’ uniquely unflappable stage presence. They’re visually iconic enough to have video screens shaped like their heads, but they’re not stars: more like the calm at the eye of a dazzling storm. “OK London, let’s do it,” says Tennant before a techno-boosted It’s a Sin begins the staggering final sprint, during which the O2 becomes an enormous, ecstatic rave, strafed by thousands of crisscrossing green lasers. The duo end with their celebratory new single, Vocal, and leave early, gifting the show’s closing minutes to the dancers, on stage and off.

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