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Literally Issue 13 Tour Prepartion London

TOUR PREPARATION London. October 4, 1994.
In the Pet Shop Boys' rehearsal studio, musicians are playing old soul songs, as musicians tend to do when they are left unsupervised. Occasionally they are interrupted by samples from 'Absolutely Fabulous": "Laeroix, sweaty! Lacroix!", in particular, bellows over and over. Today is Chris's birthday, and a Jarge bunch of flowers are lying on one of the speakers. It is nearly the end of the second day of rehearsals for the Discovery tour.

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Only a few weeks ago, they decided to accept an offer to play around South America, and then added dates in Australia and Singapore. They have just begun to rehearse the music.

Neil and Chris sit in the lounge next door. Neil drinks tea; Chris drinks nothing. When we have finished talking, the two of them will disappear in a taxi. They are off to see Shirley Bassey. Before that, I ask some questions about the tour. The answers given below subsequently appear in the Discovery tour programed:

How do the last two Pet Shop Boys tours, in 1989 and 1991, seem to you now?

Neil: I remember the first tour being very enjoyable and exciting, because it was the first time we had gone on tour. There were times when we were doing it when we were disappointed with the sound. And the last tour, t remember as being slightly more exhausting, and the atmosphere being slightly more frenetic when you're in the center of it, because there were so many people on the tour. Because of that, it wasn't as much fun, but we were very excited about the production.

What were you trying to do with those two productions?

Neil: Well, before the Derek Jarman tour we hadn't toured because we didn't see any reason for us to tour in a naturalistic way. The Derek Jarman tour was an attempt to get round that by putting on a kind of film mufti-media show. And then the second tour was the theatrical performance we'd always wanted to do. We wanted to define a way the Pet Shop Boys could perform live, without turning into a rock band. Other groups who make their music using synthesizers and sequences in the studio always tend to turn into rock bands when they play live, and it never sounds as good. Chris: [to Neil] Isn't that what you always try and get its to do? [they laugh]

So do you turn into a rock band on this tour?

Chris: No, we're still the same, but the attitude of the performance is different. We're more free-spirited on this tour, We do what we want. We party on down. It's not a totally choreographed, staged and rehearsed show. I suppose it is more rock'n'roll in its attitude. You get to express yourself. [Laughs] And take your clothes off.

Neil: It's still got pretentious elements. But since the last tour, we've done four one-off shows, and we decided we'd do something more like those. So this show is much less structured in a performance way. And we've quite enjoyed those because...

Chris: ...You can drink before you go on, during, and after the show. As opposed to just after the show with the theatrical performances.

So when people look at you on stage, can they safely assume that you are both slightly sizzled?

Neil: I most certainly won't be.

Chris: Neil's got to perform. I can get away with it. Actually, even during the last show I used to have a drink during my moments offstage.

Neil: During "Rent" you used to have a gin and tonic, didn't you?

Chris: Yeah. So I used to start then. This time I'll probably start before we go on.

Neil: [with mock disapproval] Oh, I think I'm going to be locked in my bedroom when we're not traveling or on stage. I don't want to know anything that's happening. I'm going to take War And Peace with me, 10 read, because I imagine I'm going to have a lot of time to myself.

So how different is this new show?

Neil: On the first and second tours we'd had so little experience of being on stage that one of the rationales of what we did was to have performers around us, to take the heat of us.

Chris: And [laughs] we've still got those. And obviously there's films and back projections, as always.

Neil: As we're going to places we're never been before, we're using again the Derek Jarman films, because they've only ever been seen in Hong Kong, Japan and Britain. And Howard Greenhalgh has been making some films as well, based around the imagesry of our last few singles. The starting point of using film this time was that we were going to play "Absolutely Fabulous", because during "Absolutely Fabulous" the lead vocals - which are from the television show - are on the screen.

Were you always seared before now to go on stage without...?

Neil: ...Without knowing exactly what to do every single moment of the show. Yes, I was scared about that. I loved the last show because you just did it, like a job: sit down, sing "So Sorry I Said", get in the cage... You knew what you were doing. This time I will personally find it exhausting, because all moments of the show I will be thinking "oh, Cod, what do I do now? I can't walk over there again - I just did it about one minute ago.

Chris: I think Neil should be practicing in front of a mirror with a microphone. Neil: I think you might find I will be. Chris: Actually, isn't that one of the reasons you re meant to want to became a rock singer - to do all that?

Neil: I don't know. I've never quite seen the appeal.

You do have dancers, don't you?

Neil: Yes. They're Brazilian go-go dancers. They'll come on and off stage, but they're not acting out scenarios, or pretending to be In a street or lighting in a nightclub or anything. They're dancing. So it doesn't have any theatrical distance. In the past 'we were always removed from the audience by theatrical convention. This time, we are us on stage. It was always very difficult on [he last tour when you'd see people in the crowd waving and going mad, and you had to pretend you didn't notice them.

Chris: So this show is more interactive. (Laughs) It's the Nineties.

Why go-go dancers?

Chris: We'd been to the Sound Factory bar in New York in July.

Neil: Oh, that's right. We went to the Sound Factory bar in New York and we liked the fact that they bad live drummers playing along with the music, and they had these naked men go-go dancing with flags around them. In fact we totally took both ideas the percussion and the dancers - from that.

Chris: We didn't want trained dancers, because they can't dance naturally. When they try to dance naturally. They're embarrassing. For this kind of dancing you need people used to dancing in clubs.

Neil: We wanted dancers who would encourage the audience to dance.

So this time there will be no qualms about offering the audience a cheery thumbs up whenever you feel like it?

Chris: Oh, far from it. There'll be clapping going on, We'll probably split the audience up into sections and make them sing along. It's going to be more like a Wham! concert, I think. Neil is going to run from side to side,

Neil: I certainly am not. I'm not going to run from side to side.

Chris: Well, walk aloofly with your chin in the air.

Neil: Hmmm.

What will the stage look like?

Chris: We have a flight of stairs which light up, and a platform at the back. So there will be lots of entrances.

Neil: As ever, it's about entrances and exits. Some of the design is based around the pointy bats from 'Can You Forgive Her?". We're selling pointy hats as merchandise, and we're hoping the audience will wear them. I'd love to see 8,000 people in pointy hats. It'd be a great feeling.

Any costumes?

Neil: We're wearing some of our costume greatest hits. Again. No-one where we are going has ever seen them.

Chris: It's a very environmentally-friendly tour. We're recycling bits and pieces from the past.

Neil: We wear some of the costumes from our recent videos. Some of them you can't really wear live - we wore the "Can You Forgive Her?" costumes on Top Of The Pops, and they're very very difficult to move in. But we will certainly be doing some dressing op.

How did you choose which songs you wanted to play?

Chris: We wanted to do the four songs we did early this year at the London Palladium. And then we 'vent through our records and chose uplifting songs with a party sort of vibe. Particularly as we knew we were going to have congas playing along, we decided we wanted a Latin dance vibe. It didn't take long to choose the songs.

Neil: We made a tape of the ones we wanted to play. It got a bit boring in the middle, so we subsequently look out "The Theater" and the Hacienda version of "Violence". The songs go right from when we started until now. We're doing one slightly obscure B-side. But we're also playing a lot of hits. I think it's good if there's an element of familiarity.

It's true, isn't it, that a couple of your songs now slip into unexpected cover versions?.

Chris: Yes, but it's meant to be a surprise. You don't want to read it in the programed first.

Neil: Sometimes you have a song, and you realize that it has a chord change which is just like the chord change of another song, so you go into it.

Chris: It's fun for us.

Neil: They're songs we really like. When we played one of them before Boy George said 'oh, you're just taking the piss, aren't you?' but they are both songs we like.

Is everything live?

Neil: Yes, it's all live in that there's nothing on tape. Chris plays some keyboards, and the synthesizer sequences are triggered in real time. All my singing is live, although one or two backing vocals are sampled.

Are you looking forward to actually being on tour?

Chris: Yes.

Neil: Yes. That's why we're doing it.

Chris: Also, it's going to be a very nice time of year where we're going, so we're going to extend our summer until Christmas.

Neil: Also, we're going to places we haven't been before, so it will be really exciting. It's all places we've never ever set foot in.

Chris: I think this show reflects how we've changed. We're more liberated. I think we're more liberated as people.

Neil: [to Chris] Is that meant seriously? It's quite nice if it is, actually.

Chris: [shrugs] Well, we are more liberated.

Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1994: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1994 Issue 13



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