As the newly crowned Godlike Geniuses descended on Manchester, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson enjoyed a night of hits from the pop icons Pet Shop Boys.
Godlike Genius. That’s what Pet Shop Boys were named by the NME this week at the NME Awards. However genius is a word banded around far too easily these days, especially by the NME. It’s a title they’ve given to Foo Fighters after all. It’s basically meaningless.
Yet, in regards to Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, it doesn’t feel a strong enough word to use to describe them. For a band that have had 43 tracks reach the top 30 of the UK Singles Chart, genius is almost underwhelming. Pet Shop Boys are one of the all time great pop acts.
Tonight, bringing their 13th record Super to Manchester, the synth pop duo showcased a hit packed back catalogue spanning over three decades. Performing for two hours solid, Tennant and Lowe were on fine form. Faultless from start to finish.
With a stage set inspired by their Inner Sanctum shows at the Royal Albert Hall last year, Pet Shop Boys emerged on revolving discs amidst a kaleidoscope of lights and lasers before kicking off with the song of the same name. Wearing sci-fi helmets matched with pristine suits, almost resembling Daft Punk‘s older uncles, the duo mesmerised with their cutting synths and pounding beats. The first of many hit singles was next with Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money), at which point it soon became apparent just how well Pet Shop Boys‘ music has aged. Almost as well as Tennant and Lowe themselves.
At no point does it ever feel like a band being wheeled out to cash in on nostalgia, which is in no small part down to Tennant‘s vocals which sound as strong as ever, but the music still feels current and exciting.
Much of the set, in particular the first hour, is taken from the band’s most recent records, especially Super. With many of the songs having a more 90s house feel rather than the 80s synth pop which made them famous, it’s non stop beats throughout, so it’s disappointing that the entire arena is seated. It’s enjoyable and very danceable, yet non of the tracks really standout as classics, although Pop Kids give it a good go. Yet it doesn’t really matter, as the whole thing feels like the Pet Shop Boys very much enjoying being the Pet Shop Boys, and it’s very hard not to get caught up in it.
Visually the whole show was absolutely stunning, with waves of light, lasers, smoke and stunning projections completely engulfing the arena. It’s a perfect match for the music, which is played with almost Kraftwerk like precision by Lowe and three other musicians who appeared out of nowhere a few songs into the set.
Obviously what stood out most were the duo’s number of iconic singles, with West End Girls, It’s a Sin and Go West given a new lease of life, gaining a deafening reception from the crowd. The reaction was genuinely moving.
It’s the last 40 minutes of the set that the Pet Shop Boys‘ Godlike Genius really does shine through. It’s a relentless stream if classic, iconic pop tracks which will still feel as important in 30 years as they do now, and did 30 years ago. Closing with the majestic Always On My Mind, it was a perfect way to bring a set of effortless pop to an end.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Keith Ainsworth.