REVIEW: Pet Shop Boys bring a ‘Super’ beat to NYC

Pet Shops Boys recently played the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of Ken McKay.
Pet Shops Boys recently played the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of Ken McKay.

NEW YORK — The Pet Shop Boys, one of the most successful, dynamic and influential music duos in history, brought their Super tour to the Theater at Madison Square Garden Saturday, Nov. 12, and the tour and new album’s title seemed entirely appropriate. This was a show that perfectly highlighted the uniqueness and enduring legacy of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s music together.

The setlist from the highly danceable show was a memorable mixture of classic tunes and new songs from Super, an exquisitely rendered album that should be on anyone’s shortlist for Album of the Year. Coupled with these songs were striking visuals that included a nonstop light show that made the theater seem like a synthpop salon.

The duo began in typical PSB fashion: a dazzling display of lights, a pulsating beat, a grand entrance on two swiveling platforms and a throng of fans eating up the theatricality of it all. They began with “Inner Sanctum,” an appropriate set opener that set the mood and offered some connective tissue to the older songs.

Next up was the band’s most famous hit, “West End Girls.” The crowd, all standing already, were sent into rapturous applause when the well-known keyboards and beats were blasted from the stage. The tune, which still receives a lot of radio play in 2016, is a perfect pop song that has a wonderful lyric and catchy, head-bouncing beat.

“The Pop Kids” is one of the strongest and (perhaps) most autobiographical of Super’s selections. The song sums up the duo’s love of pop music and the inevitability of life’s occurrences. I love the line about ending up in London, the place where they needed to be. It’s a self-reflective song that has a great chorus that catches in the listener’s ear and propels the dancer’s movements.

Pet Shop Boys are currently touring the world in support of their latest album, Super. Photo courtesy of Ken McKay.
Pet Shop Boys are currently touring the world in support of their latest album, Super. Photo courtesy of Ken McKay.

Other highlights included “Burn,” which received some of the best crowd energy of the night, and “Se A Vida É (That’s the Way Life Is).” There’s also no denying the infectious quality of “Home and Dry,” which saw Tennant and the backing band walking across the stage in a methodically slow fashion. Lowe kept the rhythm buzzing along on his keyboards.

“New York City Boy” — because of the location of the concert — had the crowd shouting. Ditto for “Left to My Own Devices” and “It’s a Sin.”

Tennant has a way of exuding cool and style without coming across pushed or fake. He sings the songs with his still-strong voice and simply lets the crowd navigate the mountains and valleys of the duo’s dizzying music. Lowe is a master at keeping the setlist moving and motivating. His skill at the keys are undeniable and legendary.

The house, which was barely standing, was officially torn down when PSB’s cover of The Village People’s “Go West” finished out the main set. The encore saw a singalong “Domino Dancing” and “Always on My Mind.”

Before the audience headed back onto the streets of Midtown Manhattan, they received a brief, but powerful, reprise of “The Pop Kids.” Ending with this song was entirely appropriate. The tune sums up PSB’s career, their new album, their worldwide tour and probably the feeling of the crowd who couldn’t stop dancing to those vocals and beats.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Click here for more information on the Pet Shop Boys.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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