Friday, 18 December 2009

Pet Shop Boys, SECC, December 17th 2009

Pet Shop Boys, Bad Lieutenant and Unicorn Kid at the SECC

Thursday 17th December 2009

It was a cold, cold night in Glasgow, but a display of warm electro tinged pop by the Pet Shop Boys warmed the hearts of thousands of music fans and got them into the festive spirit.

I arrived at the venue early, keen to see a bit of Unicorn Kid, the Edinburgh teenager who is causing a stir in all the right places just now. I had seen Unicorn Kid at Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh back in August and had been impressed and slightly jealous of the way he whipped an enthusiastic crowd of teenagers into a frenzy with his beep, bleeps and melodies. The cavernous SECC (albeit one of the smaller all-standing venues) was a different matter though - especially considering the fact that the vast majority of the audience were not really who he is aiming his music at. Yet it must have been a great experience for him, although the huge stage highlighted that he doesn't really do much other than push a few buttons and wear a lion hat - his presence is certainly limited although the tunes have enough melodies and ideas going on to mark him as 'one to watch'. He is still incredibly young and has literally came out of his bedroom to remix Pet Shop Boys, tour the UK and America. It will be interesting to see how, and if, he develops and starts to right lyrics, if he sings, or gets a singer.

Unicorn Kid was told to halt his set at 7.30pm promptly to allow the roadies to set up the stage for Bad Lieutenant - Bernard Sumner from New Order's new band. The band took to the stage and Barney said 'hello we're New…Bad Lieutenant.' They kicked off with a song off their debut album called 'This Is Home', although the soundman seemed to have forgotten to turn the mics on and it was only halfway through that the sound of the vocals came on. There was another track of the LP before Barney's co-singer Jake Robins said 'heres one you might know' before the instrumental build up to the New Order classic 'Bizarre Love Triangle'. This classic track quickly wakened and thawed the crowd with some pogo-ing and punching of the air near the front of the stage. Barney did a little bit of his 'dad-dancing' and whistled and whooped… 'you say the words that I can't say.'

Bad Lieutenant came back to the fore with their single 'Sink Or Swim', before 'Summer Days' melted into another familiar intro, 'Crystal', New Order's comeback single from 2001. As it finished the synths started for 'Out Of Control', Sumner's collaboration with Bobby Gillespe and Primal Scream. This is an amazing song of the Scream's XTRMNTR album and well worth tracking down if you haven't heard it. You may have noticed a hint of surprise in my review that Sumner was choosing to play New Order songs, this is due to his profile split with long-term friend and legendary New Order/Joy Division bassist Peter Hook. As a New Order fan my heart leapt at the end of 'Out Of Control' when it segued into my all-time favourite song 'Temptation' - a New Order classic from 1982 that still sounds fresh and vital in 2009. The guitar riff, the lyrics, the hooks and that glorious refrain 'oh you've got green eyes, of you've got blue eyes, oh you've got grey eyes….and I've never met anyone quite like you before'. Absolutely brilliant. And if that wasn't enough Sumner ended the gig with the Joy Division classic 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'.

The curtain dropped, the lights went down, a huge white wall was standing on the stage - a mic in middle and a bank of computers and keyboards to the right (stage left). The music started, a display of graphics came on the wall - were Pink Floyd about to play? The wall opened in two places and out walked Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe with coloured boxes on their heads to launch into 1988 single 'Heart'. 'Heart' contains the simple yet beautiful and meaningful lyric 'I'm in love with you, I mean what I say, I'm in love with you' and I guess that is one of the reasons Pet Shop Boys music has stood the test of time - it is simple yet extremely clever pop music.

'Did You See Me Coming' was next as the crowd found their dancing feet, 'Go West' was dropped in early and the crowd found their voice, expertly conducted by the ringmaster Tennant. 'New York City Boy' proved a hit with the crowd. Full marks have to go to whoever devised the groups stage set - the boxes were knocked to the ground, used to make mini-stages, steps and buildings. Every song had images, graphics or videos displayed in the background, their were costume changes - with Tennant playing the city gent, the futuristic pop star and just a good old Pet Shop Boy.

The hits kept coming for almost 2-hours straight, some I remembered and some I had forgotten. 'Love Etc', 'Suburbia', 'Being Boring' (what an ironic title - could the Pet Shop Boys ever be boring?). 'Always On My Mind' promoted a hands-in-the-air moment with Tennant grinning widely at the crowds response. He was having just as good a time as the crowd.

With so many songs coming thick and fast it was impossible for me to remember the order they were played in. There was a 3-song section where things were slowed down to reflect the fantastic stage show and the 4 dancers that ensured the crowd always had something to watch.

There was a point during the fantastic 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' when I wondered if those were the precise thoughts going through Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe's minds as they looked out at their adoring masses. The answer was in the music - inventive and original pop with a highly artistic edge, songs and melodies that became engrained in peoples mind on first listen, pop songs that stand the test of time, pop songs to soundtrack nights out - songs to make people dance and sing.

There were many highlights during the two-hour set of stunning pop, but the bit in 'What Have I….?' when Dusty Springfiel's voice kicked in with her image projected on to the white wall was simply stunning - euphoric. It was pop, house, dance and soul all merged together to create something truly special. 'Since you went away, I've been hanging around, wondering why I'm feeling down..'

Two of the biggest highlights were yet to come 'It's A Sin' and the groups debut single 'West End Girls'. Glitter cannons showered the crowd in glitter as everyone danced and sang along. Pet Shop Boys ended with their Christmas song 'It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas' with snow falling from the roof of the venue.

This was a stunning example of how pop music can bring people together, there were teenagers to people in their 50's (possibly 60's) dancing and singing as one, smiling and laughing. I hope Unicorn Kid stuck around to watch the show…

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