Published Oct 25, 2016Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were all about flashing lights and spectacle at Vancouver's Pet Shop Boys concert Monday evening (October 24). An act best suited to majestic and orchestral settings, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre served the electronic pop icons fine with its high ceilings and layered audience seating. With a reputation as intellectuals with an art deco lean, the disco-tinged veterans entered on two large white orbs that swivelled around to reveal Tennant and Lowe wearing a metal headdress and an iron mask, respectively.
They led with "Inner Sanctum" off their new album Super, a vibrant and pulsating track that proves longevity doesn't cancel out catchiness.
Perhaps implemented too soon in the evening, beloved and career-making first hit "West End Girls" was a true gift to the ears with its nostalgia-loaded baseline. Tennant added some new lines half way through the song — his English-accented voice bringing back all the feels of '80s new wave brilliance.
In his bedazzled black suit, Tennant and his stoic counterpart moved very little onstage, as is their custom. The three members of their back-up band, however, were perched on three separate circular pods with their drum sets and keyboards, outfitted in metal helmets and added some much needed movement and energy into the mix.
Of all the group's new material, "The Pop Kids" is probably their best, representing the duo's unfailing lifelong love of disco and commitment to the genre. But this night was for the classics too, and the Pet Shop Boys let the audience have every one of them —from "New York City Boy" to the irony-soaked "It's a Sin" to an updated version of "Left To My Own Devices."
Throughout their twenty-two song setlist, the duo supplemented the music with a heavy hit of theatrical lighting and geometrical-themed imagery. Tennant's own face filled the screen like the Orwellian floating head of Big Brother during "Inside a Dream," while "Home and Dry" gave onlookers the most beautiful visuals of the night with textured sunset imagery and nature-inspired laser lighting. Tennant went through multiple costume changes, showing off everything from a large Russian-inspired hat and long black coat to separate silver and gold jackets. The back-up band even eventually donned multi-colored spherical helmets, reminding onlookers simultaneously of Daft Punk and Deadmau5.
Closing the set with a cover of the Village People's "Go West" put everyone in a euphoric mood of togetherness. The positivity generated from the hit was mimicked by the giant rainbow coloured balloons that floated across the back of the stage.
The Pet Shop Boys returned for an encore of "Domino Dancing" (during which Tennant left most of the singing up to the eager audience) and the group's famed synthpop cover of "Always On My Mind" (during which Lowe's understated stage presence, as always, added an eerie contrast to Tennant vocalizations).
The impressive length and consistency of the Pet Shop Boys' career hasn't changed the band much, even if nowadays the duo rely a little more on flamboyant stage production to pair with their time-tested tunes.