It's Pandemonium: Pet Shop Boys are never 'Being Boring' in Tampa concert
Cubes on heads. Cubes on stage. Hats that look like strutting peacocks. Video displays, strobe lights, confetti, a half dozen wardrobe changes. Yep, it had to be a Pet Shop Boys concert.
Unless you've seen Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe perform in person, it's pretty damn near impossible to describe the experience. The "Euro-disco poet laureates," as Rolling Stone once dubbed them, played the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on Thursday in front of a crowd of worshiping fans -- and a few curious bystanders. Here's how it went down.
RUNNING LATE: The days of concerts running really late are behind us, right? But PSB took the stage about a half hour late, giving the anxious crowd a chance to hear 30 minutes of house music that sounded straight from happy hour on Logan's Run.
THE CUBES: The stage was covered with white cubes. And Neil and Chris performed with cubes on their heads for the first song Heart from the 1987 album Actually. Backup singers wore cubist outfits for much of the night as well. The stage cubes ended up being the "video screen" for much of the night. Of course, during Building a Wall, the wall of cubes falls apart. Roadies wore white lab coats and safety helmets to move things around between songs. Nice touch.
THE NEW STUFF: The set list was full of tunes from their new album Yes, but that's a good thing. It's an excellent project and tunes like Did You See Me Coming, Pandemonium, Love Etc. and All Over the World sound even better live.
THE SNAFUS: You miss electronica music, don't you? Well, you probably don't miss the obligatory computer problems that come with it. Thursday, after a fantastic version of Go West, the computer system was stubborn about wanting to replay Love Etc. "We have a slight computer problem," Neil said cheerfully. "It'll be fixed in a minute." And indeed it was.
MORE COOL STAGE PROPS: You gotta love backup singers/dancers dressed as New York skyscrapers during Why Don't We Live Together. Even the stoic Chris Lowe got out from behind his keyboards to dance with them for a while. (I swear I even caught him smiling during It's a Sin.)
THE SLOWER MOMENTS: Neil donned a tux for a slow swim through Closer to Heaven, King's Cross and The Way It Used To Be. It's on these tunes that you realize, wow, the guy's voice is better than ever today.
THE BIG MOMENTS: The crowd erupted for Always on My Mind and It's a Sin, which was the first set finale. But Being Boring, Left to My Own Devices and Jealousy also found appreciative ears. New York City Boy wasn't expected to show up on the set list, but there it was last night. A simple but satisfying version of their first big hit, West End Girls, closed out the show.
WHAT TO TAKE AWAY: There's no such thing as a throwaway song at a PSB concert. Every tune is theater, an act to be played out. If you close your eyes, even for a few seconds, you miss out on some subtle treasure.
[Photos by Getty Images]