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Pet Shop Boys - Pandemonium Live at the O2 Arena

2010-04-21 16:01
Which, if you follow things logically, provides the one medium-sized gripe I had with Pandemonium: the celebratory tone of the show is... uncomfortable. Let's not put too fine a point on it. Neil Tennant looks too happy. Where's the dark irony, dammit? Where's the sarcasm and the foreboding static glare? And when he does a bit of a two step with the dancers it's a bit "oh...". Thank heavens Chris Lowe still looks as unimpressed with everything as ever.

Actually, that's just an early fan hearkening back to a bygone era of PSB. The truth is that you can't fault Tennant on the vocal performance. He's in as fine a live voice as you could expect, given that this is essentially a two-hour greatest hits type of show (most of the hits are here). And I suppose that really explains the light mood, too.

As their career progressed and their stock rose, so did the presentation become more high-concept. They've opted in latter years for mostly computer-generated abstracts as visual accompaniment . It's not as overbearing as it once might have been, with a tastefully-sized stage set dominated by a projection surface just filling the void nicely. There are also a couple of dancers / singers who provide a bit of movement and live visual aid.

All this amounts to a strangely oddball but absorbing set. Great pop songs, rooted essentially in post new-romantic structure, but with dance-club overtures and modernist presentation. There's more than a slight nod to the grandparents of electropop, too. "Divided by Zero"'s intro bit is almost certainly a tip of the hat to Kraftwerk's classic tangentials. And the headpieces worn at the top and tail remind me of Devo and their late seventies art-pop ilk

It's far from the classical definition of "pandemonium", but fans will still appreciate watching pop heroes enjoy themselves as much at Tennant and Lowe seem to.

On the extras, the medley of hits performed at the 2009 Brit Awards includes a bizarre 30-second back-of-stage walk on by Lady Gaga representing Dusty Springfield, and that damn Brandon Flowers also turns up like an international version of Danny "I’m everywhere at the same time" K.

The "Love, Etc" video is cool (it’s a good song!) and there are a couple of bonus performances from the show.

No one could ever accuse the PSB of being artistically uninteresting. They've always delivered a brand of literate pop for folks who don't mind working for the point (or punchline) of the song. Even the big dance beats that sometimes forced their way onto the tunes in latter years didn't dilute the feeling that you’d have had to have read a book without pictures at some point to totally get it.

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