Honestly, I had mixed feelings about Pet Shop Boys‘ latest album Super. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, of course, but somehow it just seems to feel like a difficult second album. 2013’s Electric was such a revitalisation, especially following just nine months after Elysium, and this latest comeback does feel a little bit like more of the same.
So I approached their latest tour with fairly low expectations, but the Halloween atmosphere at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles was pretty upbeat, right from the start. The line for entry included plenty of hilarious costumes, including the girl dressed up as a troll doll, with her hair pretty much vertical in a cone, and, well, it would be difficult not to mention the two grown men dressed as bumblebees.
In fact, it barely took a couple of beats of Inner Sanctum before most if the audience were on their feet. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe appeared, standing in front of the Super circles and looking entirely as though they were about to have knives thrown at them. Second came West End girls, an odd choice for so early in the show, but it sounded exceptional, and getting the extra verse and a bit of a remix towards the end made all the difference.
As the night started to wear on, the party grew ever better. An unexpected rendition of In the night mixed seamlessly into the brilliant new track Burn, before we jumped back to 2013 for Love is a bourgeois construct. There were even a lot of surprises amongst the song choices. Long gone were traditional crowd pleasers such as Paninaro and Being boring – in fact there were no tracks at all from 1990’s Behaviour. But Pet Shop Boys always put on a good party, and so newer classics such as New York City boy and Se a Vida É (That’s the way life is) took their place, and went down astonishingly well.
Twenty-something was next, and the crowd – at least where I was standing – was really into it. The person behind me was enthusiastically attempting to use Shazam to find out what the song was called. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t work.
Highlights of the evening included the excellent new version of Love comes quickly, which deservedly had most of the crowd dancing and singing along, and later the brilliant and very brave quirky glitch acid version of Left to my own devices.
Of course, some moments fell flatter than others. Love etc had everyone bouncing along, just like in the original video from 2009, but somehow Neil’s delivery seemed to be letting the pace of the song down somewhat. The dictator decides, on the new album a dark and dramatic piece, didn’t quite seem to work live, and sadly neither did Inside a dream entirely, despite being one of their finest songs of recent years.
As Neil told the crowd, Pet Shop Boys have a long-held association with Los Angeles, with KROQ DJ Richard Blade having introduced them in the 1980s, and it was here that they recorded their 2012 album Elysium, which has subsequently been forgotten by all but the most die-hard fans. Even those fans bear an inexplicable hatred for the silly but fun Winner, which came next, in its infinitely better remixed form, but here, the audience just seemed to accept it as another great piece of pop.
Then the ambient version of Home and dry, which nobody really remembers any more, and which mixed into the instrumental The enigma, from their largely underperformed work charting the life of Alan Turing. Proceedings picked up again with Vocal, and then The Sodom and Gomorrah show, before excellent renditions of classics It’s a sin, Left to my own devices, and Go West.
Finally, the encores: an explosive version of Domino dancing, and a more traditional take on Always on My Mind to close. But then, somewhat inexplicably, a reprise of The Pop Kids – I think I see what they were doing here, trying to tie everything back to the beginning of the show, but I’m not sure this entirely worked as a closer.
All in all, though, a fantastic show – better than the Electric tour, which, while great, seemed to share a lot with the preceding Yes tour, and that would have been four years earlier.