Hit me with your laser beams: how the Pet Shop Boys' live shows stay state-of-the-art
Chart-topping duo cross the country in February, in their Super Tour
Floating in a bubble somewhere between retro kitsch and timeless futurism, the Pet Shop Boys are correctly – although perhaps not universally – acknowledged as titans of innovation in British pop music. Any doubts which are held on this score are held by listeners who never quite realised that the Pet Shops were hiding in plain sight, arch manipulators and semioticists disguised as two-dimensionally reassuring salesmen of a slew of bright and unconscionably catchy pop hits, particularly in the 1980s. To not pay attention to them was to dismiss them as fun but insubstantial; to pay attention was to keep digging into hidden depths for years to come.
But still; they're a great pop band first and foremost, and the pair – crooning former Marvel Comics editor Neil Tennant and permanently-sunglassed electronics 'boffin' Chris Lowe – certainly don't need to be weighted down with over-excited claims of cleverness in lieu of being able to write a great song. Where they really made an impression which lasted, of course, was where they managed to cover both bases, stealing in and out of the zeitgeist with effortless radio hits which took the temperature of their times perfectly, fusing disco, electropop and house music into one; illustrating London's class divide in 'West End Girls'; soundtracking Thatcherite yuppiedom with 'Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)'; and bringing gay culture to the mainstream with tracks like 'Rent' and their cover of 'Go West'.
That they've faded from view as musicians isn't borne out for those who still look at chart placings rather than YouTube views – up to and including last year's Super, all 13 of their albums have been top ten UK hits. Yet it's their attention-grabbing talking point live shows which keep their legend flying high; this latest leg of the Super tour brings with it a set designed by Es Devlin – who a co-creator on the London 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony – featuring lasers, fat suits and exotically designed headgear. How much you want to think about it is up to you.
Pet Shop Boys play Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, Tue 21 Feb; Edinburgh Playhouse Wed 22 Feb