By Jeff Walsh
I remember the first time I saw The Pet Shop Boys in concert nearly a decade ago, after only knowing their music. I seriously wondered what sort of crazy world I stepped into. Neil Tennant seemed to be walking down a ramp in slow-motion while singing a song with an orange fright wig on his head (Chris Lowe wore the same fright wig on the keyboards), and nearly every other song had some visual element attached to it. I expected a normal concert, and got craftsmanship, so it was a lot to absorb at once. It was all just so thought out and artfully constructed. And none of the elements were just distraction, filler, or nonsense happening on a screen behind him that didn't matter.
It was rare to see a show where the performer seemed humbled to be present, yet made no effort to break a sweat, content to let the words and music create the magic of the live event. Even the most upbeat songs worked up the crowd, but not the band. But this was the band known for ironic detachment, so it all made sense.
Of course, seeing them again tonight in San Francisco (a decade later than my first PSB concert, and 25 years since their first hit single, West End Girls was released) I knew what to expect, and they didn't disappoint.
By Jeff Walsh
Unless you're a serious Pet Shop Boys fan, Catalogue is overkill. Of course, just the notion that a band would have enough material to fill 300+ pages that largely showcase how they have managed their public image over a career spanning more than two decades is really worth a visit for anyone interested in music, celebrity, or fame.
For me, they always had interesting cover art and presentation to their music, but until I saw them live very late in the game, I never knew how manicured the whole thing was. On their 'Nightlife' tour, they did a very polished set, working the crowd, but never really breaking a sweat. It was initially a bit oft putting, but then again, they were also wearing odd, spiky-headed wigs at the time, too. But the more I watched, it dawned on me that a sense of detachment was always part of their magic. This wasn't a band that would treat a concert as a jubilant experience where there was a shared magic between them and the crowd (if they do, they certainly wouldn't let on). No band-led singalongs, big cheesy smiles when a familiar intro chords progression washed over us. Nope.
By Jeff Walsh
The Pet Shop Boys is one of my foundation bands. There are moments where their music is clearly fixed in the events of my life. I remember when the gay bar I used to frequent played "Go West," their exuberant cover of the Village People classic, as its closing music very night. The dance floor became a celebration with everyone becoming a community, singing and smiling in a small Pennsylvania town where this wasn't a constant state. I can look back on many moments like this and find a Pet Shop Boys providing the score.
More recently, I was at a club in San Francisco, and heard only one or two chords, and knew I was in the hands of The Pet Shop Boys. Over the years, they have developed such a unique, distinctive sound that somehow immediately identifies them but never seems to restrict them. But the thing I noticed most when I heard the chord is how happy it made me. I didn't know the song, the words, the chorus, the bridge... but just it being The Pet Shop Boys was enough to make me smile and radiate happiness. I can't honestly think of another band that has that effect on me.