day late, the American tour began fairly triumphantly. Beforehand there
had perhaps been a little apprehension about performing this show in America.
The Pet Shop Boys are less well-known here than in most of the world,
a lot of the songs in the set have never been hits here, and Neil and
Chris have often been advised that in America such a theatrical show -especially
one without a live drummer - would be frowned upon. (Even the two musicians
who were playing and were supposed to be at the side of the stage, were
often forced backstage in the smaller American theaters.)
took the opposite view - that something so different would be appreciated
all the more -and so it transpired. MTV flew down to Miami to interview
the Pet Shop Boys and film two songs, "Opportunities" and "Where
The Streets Have No Name". Their report, which aired repeatedly over
the next few days and which just about everyone in America seemed to see,
was loud and energetic, and closed with one of the Miami audience energetically
proclaiming the show "a theatrical masterpiece".
Houston (where they played in an open air Fun fair) and San Francisco
(in a club where on both nights members of the audience jumped on stage;
the first night one leapt onto Chris's bed during "Your Funny Uncle",
the second another hopped up to kiss Neil) they stopped over to record
The Tonight Show, a famous American show along the lines of Wogan. The
usual host is Johnny Carson but that night it was compared by his regular
stand-in, comedian Jay Leno. The Pet Shop Boys had arranged to perform
two songs live - "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "How
Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" - and to be interviewed. They were
appearing with some of the concert cast - Sylvia Mason-James, Derek Green
and Pam Steven on additional vocals, Trevor and Mark (in their angel costumes)
dancing, J. J. Belle on guitar and Scott Davidson on keyboards - but had
emphasized, both on the phone from New Orleans and during rehearsals,
that they should clearly appear as a duo. During the first song ("Where
The Streets ...") Chris noticed -watching a monitor showing the broadcast
-that he hadn't appeared on camera once and, understandably miffed, walked
off during the song. The people from the TV show refused to re-shoot the
song and so the Pet Shop Boys refused to play their second song.
Los Angeles they were visited backstage by rapper Young MC and - perhaps
more unexpectedly - by Guns "N' Roses singer Axi Rose, who proclaimed
the show "gorgeous", complained bitterly that they didn't play
"Being Boring" and said that in between recording the new Guns
"N' Roses LP he usually listened to Behavior. In New York Liza Minnelli
and Bruce Weber both came to see them. In Montreal, where it had been
raining, during "So Hard" lots of the audience put up their
umbrellas in imitation of the action on-stage.
American press agreed they had never seen anything like it. Some were
horrified, but most were enthusiastic. Here is a selection of the reviews:
Walters, San Francisco Examiner: "Sensational Pet project"
the new world order is firmly established and Madonna becomes president,
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe
the Pet Shop Boys - will be England's Prime Ministers. Their Wednesday
show was the best, boldest pop spectacle to sweep through the Bay Area
since Madonna 'S Blond Ambition tour. And like Madonna's staged extravaganza,
this was more performance art than rock concert. This was the future of
pop. It was opera. It was fabulous ... the result was meta-theater-theater
about theater. The staging commented on itself at every turn ... The Pets
and the Material Girl draw on similar sources - cabaret, disco escapism,
post modern deconstruction, religion, sex, camp and the love of a good,
gaudy show-stopper followed by another and another. If Madonna fulfilled
the dream of her "Justify My. Love" video and became a male
couple, she'd be the Pet Shop Boys."
Cromelin, Los Angeles Times: "Rock- Theater Revival". "A
slam-bang production in the Rock theater tradition that includes David
Bowie 'S "Diamond Dogs" extravaganza, Genesis' concerts back
when Peter Gabriel wore animal heads and silly costumes, Pink Floyd building
"The Wall" and Madonna's parading her "Blond Ambition".
Unlike those forerunners, though, the English duo's endeavor didn't really
rely on a rock star's charisma ... in fact, except for Neil Tennant's
prominence as lead singer, the show could pretty much go on the road while
the Pet Shop Boys themselves relax at home -.. For all the underlying
technology it's the human elements that linger. And for all the knowing
edges and satirical thrusts of their tart social commentaries about class,
sex, art, consumption and sex, the Pet Shop Boys managed to generate a
sympathy - not for themselves as stars, certainly, and not even as stage
characters, but for the confusing, sad world whose poets they've become."
Butters, Salt Lake Tribune: "Pet Shop Boys unleash techno-pop assault."
was a stage show laced with violent and sexual undertones - a ballerina
with a gun, a woman strangling herself with a telephone cord, simulated
oral sex acts, and individuals with chains and whips...
Kot, Chicago Tribune: "Pet Shop Boys' other-world concert engulfs
Pet Shop Boys don't so much perform their music as participate in it ...
their show was a mix. Of sly humor, wretched excesses, theatrical razzle-dazzle
and digitally impeccable dance music that only incidentally at times included
its two. "Stars" ... not all the jokes worked, however. It's
A Sin" burned out on sexual overkill, and the shopping-cart-world-run-amok
in "Suburbia" was more than a little obvious...
Parales, New York Times: "Serious Spectacle From The Pet Shop Boys."
the era of the largely prerecorded, minutely planned pop spectacle, the
Pet Shop Boys are
At Radio City Music Hall the two Pet Shop Boys and a troupe of dancers
and singers unveiled a spectacle that was strange, doleful, funny and
consistently absorbing. Even more unlikely, it added new dimensions to
the songs. Madonna, David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd now have
of the Pet Shop Boys' songs are unassertive ditties set to unabashedly
mechanical elector-pop, perking along with a light boom-chicka-boom. Neil
Tennant sings in a thin, nasal voice about romance and a more unusual
pop topic, the culture of consumption
performance showed that the Pet Shop Boys know all about artifice, yet
they haven't forgotten that pop's formulas can crystallize genuine emotions."
Farber, Daily News (New York): "Pet Shop Boys: Mind over motion."
you had to pick one word for this show -besides brilliant - it would be
busy ... since so much of PSB's high-tech dance music is constructed by
machines anyway, and since the stars are, by their own admission, about
as charismatic as your tax accountant, it was practically a prerequisite
to stress theatrics over musicianship ...Unlike other pop theatrical concerts
by, say, Madonna, this extravaganza didn't try to rouse. It aimed to overwhelm,
to inspire intellectual awe."
Aquilante, New York Post: "Call 'em Pet Slop Boys."
a stunning display of pretentiousness - so overdone, under-thought and
outrageous that it was hardly recognizable as a pop-music performance
- the Pet Shop Boys made their New York City debut ... The video-come-to-life
routines included the revolting opening English schoolboy number which
ended with simulated masturbation ... after a show like this Radio City
Music Hall should install windows to air the place out. In another scene
Tennant was strapped into an electric chair for a mock execution while
fifth-wheel Lowe played a dog boy caged on the opposite side of the stage,
Too bad concern director David Alden wasn't strapped into on' Sparky for
a jolt or two himself. The show was a steaming heap of gobbledygook."
Jaeger, The Record (New York): "The Pet Shop Boys, unleashed and
Pet Shop Boys have come up with something unique, But they should never
have taken it on the road ... There's no drama or humor to be found in
the two-hour production, only a mindless, endless series of grotesque
characters and disturbing angry images
people into cages and then jolting them with pseudo-electric shocks is
not my idea of entertainment."
Aleifti, The Village Voice (New York):
the Boys Are."
sounds like some hell bent, low-rent David Lynch-meets-Robert Wilson Vaudeville
freak show, but it's the closest pop has come to surrealist stagecraft
since Jean-Paul Gouda concocted Grace Jones's radically theatrical One
Man Shows ... Both Boys affected the glazed deadpan of runway models;
no matter what happens (they're stuck in those cages, pawed over, kicked
about, taunted, and elector shocked), they're blasé as shit
... the pacing of the show tended to frustrate applause, but nothing stifled
the my-idol! screams these anti-idols got by merely stepping from the
Taunenbaum, Rolling Stone (reviewing New York):
British duo faced a formidable challenge:
to impress a legion of fans prone to staying at home and watching MIW.
Their solution was to amplify the eclecticism that has become a postmodern
cliché, to combine ideas from Twin Peaks and Las Vegas,
Les Miserable and Car Wash, Robert Wilson's multimedia theater and the
Jce Capades, and set a new standard for pop flamboyance and grandiosity.
Boys '91 will join Jim Hendrix '67, David Bowie '72 and the Romanies '76
as pivotal events in concert history. However it may also be remembered
as an epic display of pretentiousness.
Brown, New Muscle Express (reviewing New York): "Kinch Invasion"
incorporates the qualities of fine art, advertising, crime, sex, dancing,
fame and, most importantly, color and sound. Addressing the ins and outs
of everyday life, it fully realists the Pet Shop Boys' recorded achievements
as a stage show...the Pet Shop Boys have surpassed themselves in achieving
the desired step towards Broadway."
Fricke, Melody Maker (reviewing New York): "West End Frills".
was "The Wall" on laughing gas; Laurie Anderson inhabited by
the spirit of Busboy Berkeley; Sglvador Dali and Bob Fosse mounting a
Broadway production of Ray Davies' "Arthur". It was an inspired
glorious collision of theatrical imagination, cinematic gestures, art
school nerve, topical gravity and unapologetic indulgence. It was a celebration
of risk and a sublime examination of the sexual confusion, insatiable
materialism and incurable ennui that makes schoolboys want to be pop-stars
and pop stars aspire to be...well, something else."
Areagraphy Ltd 1992: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1992 Issue 6