In the midst of their “Super” tour, which runs through February 2017, the Pet Shop Boys were successful in effortlessly bedazzling their Los Angeles fans at the Microsoft Theater on Saturday, October 29th.
It was as much a spectacle as it was a traditional concert, with laser-beam light effects that had attendees in awe, as sinuous shapes and towering color formations added to an experience that was both nostalgic and modern.
Joined by two percussionists and a dual player of the violin and keyboard on stage, Neil Tennant, 62, and Chris Lowe, 57, continue to astoundingly belie their ages, coming across on stage as young and rejuvenated as ever, encouraged by an audience that grew up with and still listen to their entrancing electro-pop music.
It’s a reality that would not have come to fruition if not for the mightily impressive life trajectory of lead vocalist Tennant, who went from coveted blue-collar jobs — such as Assistant Editor of Smash Hits Magazine and London-based editor of Marvel Comics’ UK branch — to top-charting phenomenon as a pop iconoclast, alongside Lowe, following a serendipitous meeting with producer Bobby Orlando. This prompted a worldwide platform for “West End Girls” to impact the scene in 1984 before the release of Pet Shop Boys’ first album, Please in 1986, followed by Actually in 1987, and Introspective in 1988.
Tennant’s co-founder and right-hand man, Chris Lowe, maintains his aura as a man of perpetual mystery, somehow finding a way to retreat into the background while standing at the front of the stage with his keyboard, shrouded by a curious and compelling darkness.
The group’s concert at the Microsoft Theater was no less spectacular than the rest of the “Super” tour, which was launched in the summer on the heels of their 2016 album release bearing the same name.
The extravaganza began with a pulsating heart-thumper — a trance-like, mostly instrumental track called “Inner Sanctum” (from Super), which revved the crowd into a frenzy. It was one of five songs performed from the new album — the others being the tuneful, beat-bouncing single “The Pop Kids,” “Burn,” “Twenty-Something,” and “The Dictator Decides,” for which Tennant wore a constable uniform, eliciting reminders against fascism with lyrics like, “If you get rid of me, we can all be free.”
“West End Girls,” arguably the band’s most notable hit, was second on the setlist, sounding ever-replenished, infused with a sweet dose of hypnotism. “Home and Dry,” a unique ballad along the same lines, incorporated Tennant’s smoothly dulcet vocals, which nicely complemented the subdued beat and tempo.
Shortly thereafter, “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” recaptured the fantastically frenetic pace of the evening, which led to the most crowd-pleasing song of the show, “It’s a Sin” – an all the more euphoric and phantasmical out-of-body experience. Subsequent to that was a reconception of “Left to My Own Devices” that was accented by a robust rhythm provided by Lowe on the keyboard, and then “Go West,” which rang beautifully into “the open air,” with its cathartic and wistful urging to be “together,” 23 years after being released as a cover (Village People) via the “Very” album.
The encore included “Domino Dancing,” and last, but not least, another cover, “Always on My Mind” (Brenda Lee), which the Pet Shop Boys have ostensibly co-opted as their own, thanks to their ingenious interpretation and understanding of musicality to fit and reflect their distinct style.
Certainly, the Pet Shop Boys have had much support in manifesting their vivid vision, particularly in live atmospheres. Stage designer Es Devlin deserves recognition for a “Super” stage setup that debuts with two pods before expanding out to support the additional band members, and finally incorporating a suspended medley of gorgeously gargantuan balloons.
Overall, the group’s extraordinary presentation satisfied in spades by being contemporary from a visual standpoint, yet timeless in the musical sense. As the near-capacity swarm of adoringly loyal 7,100 fans stood on their feet for the majority of the 110-minute set — dancing, and living vicariously through a group that has sated their pop cravings since 1981, one realization became poignantly clear: it’s never too late to celebrate captivating music.
As Tennant sings in “Winner,” “You’re a winner/ I’m a winner/ Let’s enjoy it all while it lasts.”
For more information about the Pet Shop Boys, please visit Petshopboys.co.uk
For information about future events at the Microsoft Theater, please visit microsofttheater.com/events