Tuesday 11 June 2024

…Deserve This?

Pet Shop Boys are continuing to take their greatest hits show around the world and last Saturday (8th), they performed at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham. I wasn't there, but I know a man who was!
Hi Khayem,

I've written a review of The Pet Shop Boys from last night. I primarily did it so that I could remind myself of things about the gig in future years but if you would like to use it as a guest review be my guest!
(NB The feeble picture is an obvious pun but is better than any pictures I took of the show at the time being 5 miles away from the stage and all that. The lack of decent photos might be why you don't use it... 
TBH it's just if you think the readers may like it and if you have a day in the next couple of weeks / months where you are busy and need something to fill in.)
Regards, Mike
I really enjoyed Mike's review of the Blancmange gig in Bristol a couple of weeks ago, so I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to share this dispatch from Dreamworld (aka Birmingham). I've sourced (& credited) a few photos tweeted by other audience members on the night.

In a departure from the norm (sorry, Norm) I've eschewed a Dubhed selection - either too long or too hard to choose my favourites - and included links to some interesting cover versions and bootleg remixes available on Bandcamp. Consider it a homage to Messrs. Tennant and Lowe's subversion of pop and/or their willingness not to be taken too seriously. You may actually enjoy some of these, but apologies to Mike just in case!

Anyway, enough of my yakking, over to Mike....

Dear reader,

Is there anyone out there (like me) who were a bit ‘meh’ about a band from the 80’s but have changed their mind recently?

I always thought Pet Shop Boys were OK, had the ‘Greatest Hits’ but had never seen them live. Then in 2022 whilst going through the Glasto highlights on BBC iplayer  thought I would have a quick glance at PSB expecting to last about 5-10 minutes and then move on to the next ‘Bright Young Thing’...

But there’s the thing…it was really good! And this started off a chain of events which culminated in a desire to see 80’s artists before we could see them no more. So at the start of 2024 3 bands I had never seen before were booked ; the stipulation was that none were going to be over £60 and that even if I was underwhelmed I had seen ‘X’ before they retired/died.

So – Depeche Mode – January; Simple Minds – March and PSB – June.

If I’m honest I was looking forward to them in date order eg expected Depeche Mode to be the most impressive; then SM then PSB.. I’ll come back to this...

Support was Dave Pearce and his 90’s anthems…. Each to their own but not for me. I’ve always wondered what these people earn from hitting a few buttons on a machine in front of them, waving their hands around a bit, muttering something indecipherable and basically playing music someone else created. Always struck me as a bit of a con…
So PSB came on at roughly 8.30pm kicking off with Suburbia.
Dreamworld has been billed as a ‘Greatest Hits’ tour and by goodness you get them. 27 songs in just over 2 hours with a few off the new album added in the middle. I would imagine a few of you have seen clips but at the start Neil and Chris are donning headgear not unlike tuning forks. I suppose if the power went off in Brum then they could have a ‘twang’ and keep the crowd happy...

Two lampposts adorn the stage and an electronic screen covers the backing band. It does add a bit of intimacy in a cavernous arena and is a clever concept. In the first third of the gig we get Opportunities (let’s make lots of money), Rent and So Hard all sounding fantastic with Neil looking like he is having the time of his life even though this tour is on its last legs after touring the world since 2022.
After Left To My Own Devices the screen raises so we can see the other 3 members of the band. Neil explains how and why Domino Dancing was written and he doesn’t need to sing the chorus as 15,800 Brummies sing it back to him. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a crowd so up for it and there are all ages on display here so there may be some new hip joint action later this year off the back of this gig.

We then have 3 songs off the new album interspersed with New York City Boy and Jealousy a track written in 1982.
Loneliness is the one that goes down the best with the audience but I do have a soft spot for A New Bohemia kindly flagged by Khayem last week. If there is a relatively flat bit to the gig it’s around here but TBH most of us need to get our breath back for the big finale.
The final 10 tracks go by in blur and are just fantastic. Love Comes Quickly is brilliantly conceived with Neil slowly walking across a back lit screen and this was one of my favourite tracks of the night. Then Paninaro (how was that only a B side?) gives Chris a chance to do some vocals.

Soon there is Heart which Paul and I agreed was superb – graphics, vocals, etc and then What Have I Done To Deserve This with Clare Uchima taking Dusty’s original part brilliantly.
Final two songs before the encore Go West and then It’s a Sin. It’s just iconic music innit.

PSB go off and return for two more songs – West End Girls which is as majestic as you would imagine and a poignant Being Boring reminding us of our youth and those we have lost along the way. 
Well, what can I say. Firstly a lot of credit needs to go to Production Designer, Tom Scutt; Stage Director, Lynne Page; Lighting Designers, Bruno Poet and Matt Daw; along with video content design outfit, Luke Halls Studio who developed the show. It is a truly remarkable visual feast and the best light and sound I think I’ve ever seen at a gig.

Secondly Neil Tennant is 70 next month and Chris Lowe is 65. You would never know it – the energy from them and the band is off the scale.

When I booked the gig it was more in hope than expectation. Both Paul and I came out agreeing it was one of the best gigs we had ever seen and writing this review in the morning I have not changed my opinion. PSB knocked Depeche Mode and Simple Minds onto a cocked hat and that’s not something I thought I would be saying at any time in my life….
...Wow (again) and thanks (again) Mike!
Thanks and credit also to a few other audience members who I've borrowed from for this post:

Various lovely people for posting the truly epic setlist here
Louisa Passfield for photo #1
Claire Stoneman for photo #2
Daniel Chapman for photo #3
...and Mike (once again!) for the uncredited headline photo.


  1. Excellent review, Mike. There's quite a few bands from the 80s that I've come to appreciate more in my middle years, though I was kind of half & half with the Pet Shop Boys back in the day. Bought a few of the singles (particularly the one half-quoted at the top of the post) but never really went any further until later. It didn't help that I had a mate who was obsessed by them, so I quickly got sick of hearing him bang on about them all the time. I like them more now than then.

    Dave Pearce though... I'd have turned up after the support, if I'd known.

    1. Thanks, Rol. I was in a similar place to you, though may have bought even fewer singles at the time. I belatedly came around to their brilliance in the late 1990s/early 2000s, although JC's excellent series on the PSB singles at The Vinyl Villain was another welcome reminder of just how consistently great they are.

      And I'm with you re: Dave Pearce. Pete Tong, just about okay on Radio 1 back in the day but as soon as Dave came on, I was turning that dial!

  2. I saw them do this tour/ set in 2022 in Manchester and they were superb. Great review Mike.

    1. Thanks, Adam. Have I left it too late, I wonder?