Pet Shop Boys' Electric Tour
With Jacques Lu Cont
Fillmore Miami Beach
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The Pet Shop Boys kicked off its U.S. tour in Miami last night. And nearly 30 years after the duo's inception, singer Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe are still trying to keep it fresh while many other acts their age have become nostalgia shows.
With a new album, Electric, featuring heaily in a setlist peppered with key '80s hits, the duo mixed it up well with an elaborate stage show that featured ultra-dramatic costume changes, dancers wearing steer skulls on their heads, and lots of laser beams.
The show ran on time, opening a few minutes after 8 p.m. with a DJ set by Jacques Lu Cont (AKA Stuart Price), who is touring with the duo.
He produced the usual house music/perpetual beat stuff with enough dramatic pauses to stir anticipation before returning to the beat as a giant screen behind him flashed his "name" in various animated, vintage 8-bit fonts.
Though most of the older crowd who were there for the Pet Shop Boys stood around, they gave up occasional hoots and applause to the set. Still, Price smiled, grooved, fist pumped, and mouthed along to some of his samples like all the rockstar DJs are expected to do. After 45 minutes, it abruptly ended to a roar of applause.
A few minutes later, the opening tune to Electric, "Axis," faded in as the scrim screen lit up with a giant, rotating orange cone and the silhouettes of the Pet Shops Boys marching toward the crowd in their signature cone hats and bulky, frizzed out jackets that made them look like computer pixels gone rouge.
The living, breathing duo could hardly be seen behind the screen, standing still in similar outfits. Tennant offered his sparse lyrics to the tune and the music buzzed, twinkled, and pulsed. Lowe wore his usual large, dark sunglasses and hardly moved.
The song segued to the Pet Shop Boys' 1987 single "One More Chance," as more images drenched the scrim. The band certainly invested in lots of visuals, and the view from the back must have been hell with a column of five projectors stacked atop one another on a tower next to the soundboard. There were also cameras, including a swooping crane on the venue's top floor.
Tennant would later reveal the show was being transmitted live to the Internet to Brazil and Mexico.
The screen finally dropped for another retro hit, 1985's "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" for which Tennant took off the hat and glasses and finally moved about the stage.
After the song's end, Tennant addressed the crowd: "Miami, what a great place to start our American tour!" Too bad he didn't say Miami Beach. Earlier in the day, the duo had received the keys to the city from Commissioner Michael Góngora.
Lowe's keyboard was covered by what looked like a giant circuit board. It was mostly just the two of them on stage despite the active music. Lowe remained stiff throughout the show, and he often stared straight ahead when his face was not completely obscured by masks, including, at one point, a full-on mirror ball. Who knows how much of it was live and real, but who cares.
Live or not, the synth-pop, sample-heavy pioneers had something much more than a musical performance in mind. With dance elements provided by male and female bovine, undead beasties and witty set pieces, the Pet Shop Boys put on a show that blew away the sold out crowd. Everyone stood up for the audio-visual spectacle, all the way to the last seat by the exit doors.
Personal Bias: I remember the duo being asked how they chose their name on The Today Show back in 1987. What a stupid question, I thought.
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Crowd: Mostly elder gay men, with about 20-percent women and music nerds.
Overheard in the crowd (in reference to Jacques Lu Cont: "Es el hijo de los Pet Shop Boys!"
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.