Pet Shop Boys

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Throughout their 19-year history, electro-pop icons the Pet Shop Boys have always been known far more for their studio sound than their concert performances. And in their, at times, lacklustre set at UEA last night, the band which once recorded an album called So came perilously close to receiving the audience response: “So what?”.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

Throughout their 19-year history, electro-pop icons the Pet Shop Boys have always been known far more for their studio sound than their concert performances.

And in their, at times, lacklustre set at UEA last night, the band which once recorded an album called So came perilously close to receiving the audience response: “So what?”.

It didn't help that for a band with literally dozens of hit singles under their belt and a new album on the stocks, they felt that 15 songs in a set (including encores) of under 75 minutes was going to send away the thirty and forty-somethings satisfied. It wasn't. But that was only part of the problem.

The set did, after all, include the big favourites West End Girls, Being Boring and Go West among some not-bad new material.

There was nothing wrong either with the new direction the band was taking. In common with many electro-pop bands of their era they have decided to bring more of a human element – to wit indie guitar icon Johnny Marr – to their synth-based sound.

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Marr wasn't appearing on the five university gigs the band has been playing, but no matter – the problems really started and ended with the Pet Shop Boys duo themselves. Neil Tennant's vocals, which can be mannered yet so wistful in the studio, were lost in the mix, and keyboard maestro Chris Lowe spent the concert behind his stack of synths and sequencers. They may be masters in the studio, but when it comes to stagecraft I'm afraid they just don't cut the Colman's.

For the record, the new material – to feature on the new CD, Release, on April 1 – was not bad and pretty good in places, especially the singalongs I Get Along and Sexy Northerner.

The new stuff was politely received. But the problem was, so were many of their old hits.

In fact it wasn't until 65 minutes into the gig, with their kitsch rendering of Go West, that the concert really took off. And by then it was too late.

Neil dedicated the last song, the wistful You Choose, to the memory of UEA Professor W G Sebald who was killed in a car crash last year.

Then, with the encores ended, the lights went out and the crowd went home, pondering no doubt on whether they should have stayed at home with their Pet Shop Boys albums instead.

 

 

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