Pet Shop Boys at the BGE Theatre, Dublin - 4/5
The air was thick with irony and vintage electronic beats as pop’s pithiest power couple, the Pet Shop Boys, played an all too-rare Irish concert.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe materialised wearing elaborate metal head-pieces and crisp suits. As dry ice billowed across the stage, they resembled two walking pieces of performance art.
What this wasn’t was a greatest hits show. In between unsurpassable readings of ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’ they zig-zagged from obscurities such as ‘Burn’ and ‘Love Is A Bourgeois Construct’ — the latter almost as tedious and pretentious as its title. It was all lapped up by the audience but enthusiasm levels spiked notably whenever a smash was produced, with camera phones suddenly appearing and the many middle-aged couples in the house springing, cautiously, to their feet.
The comparatively intimate BGE Theatre welcomed a stripped-down production, with Tennant and Lowe foregoing the dancers and elaborate sets that were a feature of previous tours. A bare-boned three-piece band was instead on hand as the veterans led the sell-out crowd on a whistle-stop revue of their less-heralded accomplishments. Their faith in these
comparatively unknown songs was occasionally misplaced, with ‘The Pop Kids’ and ‘The Dictator Decides’ a poor pastiche of their glory years. When in doubt there was a tendency, moreover, to smother the tunes in machine-tooled grooves, so that one blended anonymously into the next.
Still, they pulled it out of the fire as the finish line loomed. ‘Home and Dry’ was bittersweet on steroids and rave-in-confession box ‘It’s A Sin’ demonstrated that chart music can be poignant and perceptive as well as catchy.
Remarkably even these highs were surpassed by the encore readings of ‘Domino Dancing’ and best-Elvis cover ever, ‘Always On My Mind’. Forget archness or irony — this was in the end an evening of life-affirming pop.
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