The tour party are to rendezvous inside Heathrow's Terminal 4 at 8.3Oam.
The previous night, Chris, Neil and Janet Street-Porter have been to Elton
John's house for dinner, to celebrate his recent knighthood. As Elton
John lives near Heathrow, they stayed overnight. "Elton's on such
good form," says Neil. "Half past seven in the morning, he did
a great impression of Chris as hilda Baker, waddling into the kitchen."
was hilarious," nods Chris.
we walk through the airport, Chris comments on each floor. He's been planning
some home decoration, and he's been preoccupied by floor materials and
textures. "It's the new catch phrase," he explains. "'What's
and Chris are in club class; everyone else is in economy. Janet Street-Porter
sits with her friend, Janet Cristea. "Spiritually," Janet Street-Porter
announces, "I should be in Club class. Look! I've got a Channel sweatshirt
on -what am I doing in economy?" She sighs. "What about us being
the two oldest rock groupies ever?" She details a Sunday times piece
she has just done in which she talks about phoning Neil and the other
Janet every morning, and in which she explains how she introduced Chris
to the delights of taramasalata on crumpets.(You do use butter too, but
just a little, to fill the holes.)
couple of hours into the flight, Neil comes and visits us in the cheap
seats, where - as the flight isn't even half full - we are happily stretched
out. "It's a con, isn't it?" he
"These are exactly the same seats as we have." He has a further,
more important observation to make. "I'll just like to point out,"
he says, "'love is a bird I she needs to fly"' He is quoting
from the brand new Madonna single, "Frozen". He thinks it is
one of the worst lyrics he has ever heard.
Street-Porter has a question for him:
us rock chicks what we're doing tonight."
we get there," Neil says, "we have to do some TV interviews.
Then we have dinner. Then we do a radio interview live - we'll be a bit
pissed - and then, to be quite frank, we'll be in bed by a quarter to
twelve." He has a policy announcement to make: "I'm not going
to night clubs."
thought you were playing in one," Janet Street-Porter points out,
the only one I'm going to' he concedes, "dragged reluctantly."
He watches the TV monitor above our heads, which are showing an episode
of Friends where Phoebe is playing the guitar. "Oh, she's doing 'Smelly
Cat'!" says Neil. "A really good song, I think."
landing cards are handed out. They are issued by the USSR. "A country)'
Neil notes, "that hasn't existed for six years."
walk off the plane, into the Moscow airport building. Chris looks down.
kind of floor is this?" he asks. He sighs. "I've settled for
slate, butt don't know if I'm wrong.
are led into some kind of VIP room, and about thirty Russian media people
scrum in after them. Within ten minutes of arriving, the Pet Shop Boys
must give a press conference. They sit down.
are asked about the flight. "What did you eat?" the interpreter
sighs Dainton in the background.
did we eat?" Neil laughs.
stringy beef," says Chris.
beef," says Neil.
says Chris. "On the bone:'
why we're a bit mad;' says Neil.
asked if it's cold for them here. Neil says he's pleased it's cold because
they've had a warm British winter. "We haven't had any snow at all-
So I want to see some snow.
asked whether they have a special affinity with Russia.
says Neil, "I've always been interested in Russia since I was a child,
in Russian history"
press conference finishes and we wait for a car. "These glasses are
such a shit design," Chris complains, holding his Okays. "And
yet I love them. But they're crap. Like everything I like. Totally nonfunctional.
But looks good." He hands them to Neil. "Look. You can't see
through them. Annoying though. It happens when you're snowboarding as
welt. They steam up and you can't see. I bought them on the way to New
York to see Naseem. They're really good because the wraparounds are so
last year. I Just love them."
really gorgeous," says Neil.
my favorite sunglasses ever," Chris says.. "The trouble is,
they're not very functional." He laughs.
the way out of the airport, they are rushed by more photographers and
a few fans. There's quite a scrum, but the scene is not so hectic as to
prevent Chris from turning round and declaring, "We're literally
pile into a limousine, and admire the video player and karaoke machine.
pure Boogie Nigh At, this car," Neil exclaims.
music in the background is their "Suburbia". They assume that,
rather cheesy, their hosts have decided that they may want to hear their
own music, but it soon changes to Side's "Smooth Operator".
It's the radio. In the hotel bar, only a few minutes after arriving, they
have to do a TV interview with Russia's Channel 4. ("It's for Channel
4!" Neil exclaims.)
you are retired," the interviewer asks, "do you think you will
have your own Pet Shop Boys? No...pet shop."
first time," Chris laughs.
planning to run a very beautiful old
home," says Neil, "with me as the oldest person in it, and all
of the other old people looking after me."
think it'd be quite nice to own chain of pet shops," says Chris.
"And do our own graphics and our own range of pets."
of you is an architect," she says. "What do you think about
St Petersburg architecture?"
one answers. The interviewer and Neil looks towards Chris, who is quietly
eating his caviar.
he says. "You're asking the wrong person.
the architect, meaty," Neil points out.
It's really good. It's - what do they call it? - the Venice of Russia,
or something like that. It's really great. What I like is, well, particularly
the view from the river, and I quite like the fact that the buildings
look great and everything but on the outside they have these big chunky
drainpipe things. It's really strange. In England they would have sort
of metal things - these look like they've been added afterwards. And the
way it sort of crumbles around the edges, I like."
says,"you choose constructivist symbols. What would be the images
of Russia now for you if you decide by any chance to make a video here?
'On East', probably."
laugh. "If we did 'Go East', I think for me it would be a Russian
nightclub," Neil says. "When I was here two years ago I was
taken to a nightclub in Moscow where they had a nude underwater ballet,
and it was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. So maybe
that would be one of them." Pause. "That's obviously a frivolous
not just frivolous, is it?" Chris chips in. "It's a symbol of
fun. And Russia seems to be quite a fun place, where our images of it
before was pretty dour and miserable."
asks if they speak any Russian.
very good at saying 'nyet'," Neil says.
very good at saying nyet'," Chris agrees.
is an interviewer from a financial paper, who asked them about quotes
they've said in the past disparaging bands who tour to promote records.
not what I think now," says Chris. "I think touring really good
fun. I'm being positive."
never toured to promote," says Neil.
fancied coming to Russia," says Chris. "And when we fancied
going to South America, we did a tour of South America. It's basically
a way of having a holiday that pays for itself."
always wanted to get the train from Moscow to St Petersburg..." says
Neil and we've devised a cunning plan," says Chris. "That's
what we're going to do. We may be mad."
and interviewer chat for a while about record sales, and then she says,
"Why, during the interview, you speak most and Chris stay silent?"
very erudite," says Chris. Why don't we ask him?" Neil suggests.
"Why don't we ask him this question, listeners?"
because you're erudite, Neil, and me, on the other hand, I'm a stupid
moron," Chris says.
is actually much more talkative than me in private," Neil says. "I
mean, at two in the morning he's like this." He mimes extreme chattiness.
"But in public he's little bit shy," Neil says. "Although
not that shy."
have dropped my pants in public before," Chris points out.
interviewer asks if he can film the Pet Shop Boys' hotel rooms.
can't see my room, Chris exclaims. "It's personal."
not doing that," says Neil. "No."
it's not Through The Keyhole," says Chris.
nyet," says Lainton.
a big nyet to that)' says Neil,
a huge nyet," says Chris.
go for dinner at a Ukrainian restaurant set up around a lit-up courtyard
within which there is a totally contrived scene of pastoral life:
of wheat, barrels, real chickens and a real horse. Halfway through our
meal, in the farmyard, we notice a fake "peasant" walking by.
We are genuinely shocked.
what Lenin would think," says Neil.
poverty as a theme park," says Janet Street-Porter.
should come in and machine gun everyone," Chris suggests.
inside the limousine, we discover the switch which turns the disco lights
on. Neil and Chris have to do one more interview at a radio station before
they're allowed to bed. They are chatting in the radio station studio
when they notice that the DJ is looking at them expectantly.
think we're on the air," says Chris. And he's delighted "It's
a Zoo format," he says.
live on the air, in the studios at Silver Rain radio," says Neil
into the microphone. "It's fabulous. It really is a gas to be here."
they talk, playing behind them, is a ghastly version of "Go West"
from a CD called The Music Of The Pet Shop Boys: 17 Instrumental Hiss.
absolutely terrible," Neil says, and everyone shrieks, though Janet
Street-Porter's is, by some way, the loudest. "I must take this album
away;' Neil tells them, "so that we can sue the people who made it
later." While Silver Rain play "West End Girls", Neil and
Chris study the instrumental LP sleeve.
West' was a big hit, wasn't it?" says Chris.
we briefly visit Red Square.
it is," says Neil. "Red Square in many ways most famous for
the filming of..." He means the "Go West" video.
had to dress up in yellow and blue suits and wander round here,"
get out for a moment. It's freezing. We take a few photos.
a great limo," Chris sighs, looking at our car.
a great limo," Neil agrees. "It's one of the great limos of
drive back to the hotel with the heating on ,full blast, and the windows
what I've always done at home;' says Neil. "It's the Neil Tennant
heating system. If it's too hot, open the window." He looks out of
the window. "You know, it's nothing like as grim. It's just not grim,
is it?" He sounds nostalgic. "The grim factor, which five years
ago was 95%, is now about 15%."
Pet Shop Boys each rise in the late morning. They are met at 12.45 in
the hotel reception for a day's promotion arranged by
the Moscow promoter. They say that they don't want so many security guards
today and consequently discover that the beefy man who sat with us in
the back of the limo isn't a security guard at all. He is the limousine
owner. He is asked to travel separately.
talks them through today's schedule: a TV show question-and-answer program
in front of an audience of journalists, then a trade show exhibition,
then a record signing, then another radio station. She says that time
is tight, and they'll have to go straight from the radio station to the
Bolshni Ballet where we are going to the ballet this evening. Chris shakes
his head. He has to go back to the hotel. "I'm putting my suit on;'
he says-. "Let's face it the number one priority is the Bolshni Ballet."
the TV studio they are sat opposite row upon row of earnest Russian journalists.
The theme music - a hilarious mixture of chugging synthesizers and electric
guitar - strikes up, and Chris gets the giggles.
we're the Pet Shop Boys;' says Neil. "This is going to be our first
ever concerts in Russia, and we're really looking forward to it."
Russian press seem fascinated by the idea that Chris doesn't talk very
much. "To be honest," the translator says, "there are legends
circulating around about your adherence with the principles of silence.
Do you want to make an exception this evening and talk to us a little
really, 00," he says, and everyone laughs. "I like the wall
of silence. Chris Lowe, the wall of silence."
subsequent question begins: "I will make my very first attempt to
break the wall of silence, Mr. Lowe..."
Lowe;' laughs Chris. "To you.
did you vote for during the most recent elections?"
didn't vote;' he says. "I just don't like politicians very much."
you're not too fond of them, where is a way of expressing your attitude,
and that is voting to somebody?"
no.1 don't think so. I'm more of an anarchist."
the questions get more intense: "Ever since 1993, observers started
to note homoerotic elements in the performances, as well as song writing
activities - take for example the concert in Rio. And a lot of people
have been noticing that you began to accentuate this theme lately. Why
is it that particularly since this moment on you begin to happily display
your attitude to this issue?"
don't think we've just begin to display this kind of thing;' Neil says.
"I think we've always in our presentation and videos had quite a
lot of sexual elements. In the video we made in the Eighties for the song
'Domino Dancing' a lot of gay people thought the video was very gay, and
a lot of straight people only noticed that the girl in it has very big
breasts. We've always presented homosexuality as being a normal way of
life. And a lot of the music we've written has been inspired - or in the
Eighties was inspired - by music that was played in gay clubs. I don't
think nowadays, in England, there's a gay subculture like there used to
be, simply because to be gay is just part of life, really. It's ordinary."
next question is: "You seem to be quite at ease with the concept
of homosexuality, and you have made statements to the effect that you
associate yourself with this phenomena. Yet many Russian showmen, even
though they also belong to this population group, they try to make a secret
out of this fact out of fear of public alienation and things like that.
The question is, have you ever through the years of your stardom had problems
with that or experienced any negative effects of making statements and
formally displaying your attitude towards this phenomena?"
draws a breath. "No," he says. "Not really." And everyone
is an opinion in this country," the translator says, "to the
effect that Western performers who come to Russia are on the downfall
of their careers...
and Chris collapse into hysterics your group has been around for 16 years
-it's difficult to assume that all throughout the 16 years of your existence
you've always been at the pinnacle of your fame and your popularity. How
do you reconcile with the concept of having been on-stage for quite bit
of time, and is it not for you that the upcoming concerts in Moscow will
be just for the sake of having this line in your biography or discography,
saying 'had shows in Moscow'?"
think you must be a very cynical person," says Neil.
are asked about their most unpleasant experience with the press.
not anything that really concerns us enormously," Neil answers. "In
England we don't do very much press.
Chris laughs, "we do press conferences."
would never do this in England," Neil says.
my memory doesn't fail me, you started out as a reporter, a journalist,
yourself," the translator relates to Neil. "Has your experience
you gained during your work with Smash Hits has ever been of any use when
you try to come to terms with your ex-colleagues?"
worked as a journalist for two years, but before that I worked as a book
editor for eight years," Neil points out. "No one's ever asked
me what the influence of being a book editor for eight years is. And in
fact it's had a big influence on the Pet Shop Boys, because I learned
to edit, and in writing songs it's very useful to be able to edit, to
take out the bad bits and keep the good bits. But being a journalist hasn't
really any direct bearing on what we do now. Apart from it gave me some
insight into how the music business in Britain worked."
thing about the Pet Shop Boys that the public is aware of and always kind
of expects are all sorts of surprises," the translator says. "It's
well known that last year during your show at the Savoy one of you gentlemen
bared one particular part of your body. Do you expect anything like that
possibly happening in one of the Moscow shows?"
~ don't know," Chris says, "because I like spontaneity. So probably
not, now that it's been brought up."
you familiar with the concept of jealousy?" they are asked. "Talking
about the likes of Oasis and Spice Girls, it seems as if they have this
endless row of invitations for tea parties with princes and the powerful
of this world. Have you ever been jealous of that?"
and Chris laugh quietly and collusively. "Actually," Neil says,
"the invitation you're talking about is, Oasis were invited to go
to meet the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at Downing Street. We were invited
wrote nothing about it," the questioner retorts.
avoided the press," Chris points out.
avoided getting our photographs taken," Neil says. "But also,
Oasis is much bigger news in Britain than the Pet Shop Boys."
Chris says, laughing, "So, Pet Shop Boys, you are only touring here
because you are finished."
question, that," Neil laughs. "Absolute classic. You know why
they ask that?" he says. "Because Samantha Fox is always here."
try to leave to go to the record shop signing, but there is a kerfuffle
for a moment because their coats have been put away safely. (In Russia,
it is possible to waste several hours a day in the giving and receiving
of your coat.) It has been agreed that there is no longer time to visit
the trade show exhibition, so Neil and Chris are somewhat surprised when,
after a very long drive, the limousine pulls up. There is not a record
shop in sight. There is, however, across the road, an exhibition center.
It turns out that Nadia has totally disregarded the agreement to skip
the exhibition. Everyone is on their mobile phones, and voices are raised.
I love this kind of thing," says Chris, gleefully. "It's fantastic."
principle, they refuse to go in, and we drive off to the record signing,
where they put their hands in some wet cement, and sign some autographs.
teenage girl leans towards Neil. She has something desperately important
to say. "Neil," she asks, "why do you drink so much alcohol?"
fun, "he says.
she says, almost in tears, "don't do it so much."
been told off now," he says.
owner says they can look around and choose some CDs.
we really want to look around a record shop?" Chris wonders. "I
hate them at the best of time." He soon changes his mind, picking
up a handful of Fl ins CDs and the Boogie Nights soundtrack.
have agreed to miss the first pan of the ballet (which is, in fact, an
opera anyway) so that they can go to the radio station. The DJ suggests
that with current technology any person can make a hit.
actually, any person can't make a hit," Neil says.
a dance track," the DI argues.
says Chris, then adds, sarcastically, "I agree".
can make any old dance track," says Neil. "But not anyone can
make a good dance track. Anyone can make a film with a video camera, but
it doesn't mean they can make a really fantastic movie. Technology liberates
people to do things, but they have to learn how to do them well."
are the new sounds going to be for the Millennium?" the DI wonders.
we'll have to wait and see, won't we?" says Chris. "As soon
as we find out what they are, we'll copy them."
is your advice," the DI asks, "to people who are shy and don't
go out and dance?"
out and dance," Chris suggests, logically.
you like dancing yourselves?" he asks.
do you dance?"
being very literal:' Chris warns. "A nightclub. In discos. No, I
dance at home as well, before I'm having a bath. I work up a bit of a
sweat. I've got a nice long room and I can run up and down. Normally in
the nude, as well. Waggling all over the place."
get to the Bolting in plenty of time for a drink, a little caviar and
the second-half ballet. Over dinner, one of the men from EMI Russia says,
"If an ordinary person in Russia thinks about England, two things
come up - the Tower Bridge and the Pet Shop Boys."
the Tower Bridge? Literally asks.
always show the parliament and the Tower Bridge on television, at the
beginning of the Sherlock Holmes movie...
why the Pet Shop Boys?
we always heard them since you are little boy. And you don't also listen
to the music, you listen to the lyrics. They capture your attention, always.
They have such visual effects. A little story about something. Pet Shop
Boys were the first mass pop group whose videos were shown on Soviet television
at the time. We had special program's on New Year's Eve, and they always
showed Pet Shop Boys. You couldn't imagine a program about Western music
at that time without Pet Shop Boys."
spends the morning at Russian art galleries. Chris sleeps. At sound check,
they inspect the stage. "I thought the screen was going to be bigger,"
says Chris. For reasons of cost, this is not a complicated show, visually.
The Pet Shop Boys will be wearing the outfits from their 1997 Somewhere
shows (this time with Issey Miyake, rather than Buffalo, footwear), but
they are not using Sam Taylor-Wood's film, nor the stage set; instead
they are performing in front of projected colored backdrops, one for each
walks up to Neil's microphone stand. "God, Neil's tall, isn't he?"
Chris says. "I never released he was that height."
Mason-James says something to Neil.
looks suitably horrified. "We haven't got a
he exclaims. "We need a
A green tambourine!"
queries Sylvia, puzzled.
he says, "it doesn't have to be green, actually."
Sylvia and Less rehearse their new dance steps for "I Wouldn't Normally
Do This Kind Of Thing", "Can You Forgive Her?" and "Opportunities".
"Oh, it's the sexy bit," sighs Neil during the latter. "Oh
do 'Rent':' Neil suggests to Chris. This they must perform entirely live.
or six times," says Chris. "Blasted bane of my life."
its new arrangement," says Neil.
follow that with an acoustic beginning to "Always On My Mind".
Neil starts, then stops. "I'm playing the wrong key," he says.
the limo back to the hotel, Neil asks the translator, Denis, for some
language lessons in how to say "we are the Pet Shop Boys" in
Russian to the crowd. Not long afterwards, they have to leave to go back
to the venue. Chris decides to eat chicken wings on the way to the concert.
are seeing this limo go through Moscow," Janet Street-Porter points
out, "and little do they know it's a McDonnell's on wheels."
wonder if you get M&Ms in Russia," says Chris. "In a little
glass bowl. They're probably so used to rock groups demanding them. M&Ms
are the only American chocolate that is better than the English equivalent."
limo drives into the venue's grounds, and we promptly get completely lost,
and start backtracking.
lost!" says Neil, clearly delighted. "It's a Spinal Tap moment!
We've never really had one before. And now we're stuck in a traffic jam.
shame of not even getting to our own gig:' Chris giggles.
Tapski:' says Neil.
drive through a park of tall, straight trees.
lost," laughs Chris, "in a forest." They find it eventually.
Their set concentrates on hits.. The first seven songs are "It's
A Sin", "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing", "Se
A Vida IE", "Domino Dancing", "Hello Spaceboy",
"Before" and "Left To My Own Devices". The introduction
to "Left To My Own Devices" takes its time arriving, and Neil
has already thanked the crowd - "spacebar balshoi" - so he gestures
across the stage, and says "this is Chris Lowe". Chris shrugs,
seemingly flummoxed by this. I hump into Neil backstage during the next
song, "The Man Who Has Everything", and he says he did it because
he figured Chris would make a funny face and do something spontaneous.
"Which," Neil says, "he did."
the next song, "Rent", Neil says "Thank you - we love you",
and Chris makes another face.
Russian crowd is pretty keen - there's nothing that unusual about them
at all - but not everything is as normal. On the left side of the stage,
almost surrounded by the audience, there is a man in a glassed-in office,
in full view of the stage. He is wearing a gray suit and reading glasses.
Behind him is a topless calendar. His head is down, oblivious to the fact
that he is in the middle of a pop concert. He is doing a crossword.
play "Where The Streets Have No Name", "Can You Forgive
Her?" (some of the Russian fans put on homemade pointy hats), "Love
Comes Quickly", and "Opportunities", then Neil says."The
guitar is returning! Which can only mean one thing...I'm going to play
it." After "Always On My Mind", "West End Girls"
and "Somewhere", they go off. After encores of "Being Boring"
and "Go West", they're finished.
got the exciting songs to do," says Chris in the limo, looking forward
to the nightclub concert. "We do the Elton John song. And 'It's Not
surround the limo, but they're in a hurry.
do a Lisa, 'says Neil. "Three autographs." They do more than
that, then drive oft'. "Well ," he sighs, "that was our
first connect in Russia. It was a laugh." He sits hack. "Did
anyone notice my new lyric to 'Go West'?" Neil asks. "'We'll
go to foreign lands'."
should it be?" Chris asks.
eat at the hotel restaurant, then head for Utopia, the nightclub, at 12.50.
In a cramped dressing room, they do a quick radio interview.
is your general feeling about this whole pop danced techno boom all over
Eastern Europe and Russia?" they are asked.
dance techno boom," says Chris.
a good album title."
is the future of this whole dance music?" the interviewer persists.
"Is it going to survive?"
future is," Neil says, "it's all become fantastically formulaic,
and something new has got to happen pretty quickly."
all our sakes)' Chris says. "We're all getting desperate."
you going to continue through the night after this gig...?" the interviewer
knackered, actually;' Chris says. Our second gig of the night, which we
normally do?' Neil says. "We have never ever done this before. And,
fascinatingly, we'll never do it again."
is also a competition winner, who has won a competition where fans have
to send in pictures of their pets, either posing with Pet Shop Boys posters
or with their photos inscribed with testaments to their Pet Shop Boy devotion.
The winner, Timothy, had a funny dog.
asks for a photo with them.
we pose for pictures with the competition winners)' says Neil.
get onto the stage, they have to run through a narrow corridor in the
audience. The stage, only a few feet across, is circular, in the middle
of the club. They are entirely
and, should the crowd get out of hand, it could be horrible. It is also
hilarious, and from the start they look like they've having fabulously
surreal fun. After "It's A Sin", Neil says "this song is
for people who like dancing...so it's called 'Domino Dancing' ...Good
link, that." Afterwards, he is handed a glass by Dainton - "champagne!"
lie coos - then they play "Before". During "Where The Streets
Have No Name", Dainton pushes Janet Street-Porter onto the stage,
and she dances with them.
my beer?" Chris shouts.
is also not written by the Pet Shop Boys - do they ever write anything?"
introduces Neil. "This is by a very good friend of ours.. Mr. Elton.
John." And for the first time ever, live in conceit, they play the
medley of "Believe" and "Song For Guy" which they
played with Elton on his An Evening with... TV program. (Sylvia sings
Elton's part.) They rollick through "Go West". "West End
Girls", "Left To My Own Devices" ("this song?' says
Neil, "has a very long orchestral introduction, during which I will
drink some champagne") and Tom Jones '"It's Not Unusual".
The Janets stand at the lip of the stage and shriek "Neil! Neil!
Neil! Neil!" And then everyone bounds back into the dressing room.
fun, that," says Chris. "Neil, I think we should do a club tour
like to apologize for my dance routine," says Janet Street-Porter.
rush to the limo. On the way, Neil passes a girl in a pointy hat who is
clearly waiting for some acknowledgment. He kisses her on the cheek, and
she burst into tears.
see what you've done)' teases Chris. "You've traumatized hen"
Janet's, who are not going to St Petersburg, leave this morning.
"Good-byes have been phoned through," Neil says. In the bar
there is a famous blond Olympic skater. None of us know her name, but
she poses with Neil and Chris, and everyone seems happy enough about it.
Neil and Chris sit in the limo, waiting to go to the train station, a
waiter walks out of the hotel carrying a tray stacked with china, cutlery
and food. He bends down to the limo's front passenger side, and passes
the food through the window. Dainton is having his breakfast delivered.
am," says Chris, "literally speechless."
we pull away. Chris looks out of the window. "Bonnie Tyler's got
posters all over, he says. "But she might not be selling tickets."
the train Neil stands up and makes an announcement to the rest of the
touring party. "Hello, everyone. Can I welcome everyone on behalf
of the British government to the 12.20 to St Petersburg, stopping nowhere?"
He sighs. "St Petersburg. It's one of our spiritual homes. For me,
it's like going home."
train pulls out.
no reason for us not to start eating, is there?" says Chris.
starving," Neil agrees. "I had plain yogurt and black bread
of food are unpacked: lots of caviar, mostly, and red wine, The journey
takes just under five hours. Neil and Chris doze, and then go through
letters for this issue of Liberally. Some of the crew go to the train
bar, where they are forced to skull huge quantities of vodka by Russians.
into St Petersburg from the station, we see a huge video billboard playing
Pet Shop Boys videos and advertising their concerts, and we pass a nightclub
where the Pet Shop Boys, on their last social visit here, were crookedly
advertised as performing. Neil points out where a politician was assassinated
last year. "Don't worry," he says "Things have calmed down."
evening, they go out for dinner, but once we have changed restaurants
(there are two restaurants with the same name on the same street) and
been kept waiting in the
Chris gets in a mood and goes back to the hotel to have room service.
Everyone else ends up in the hotel bar. Neil spots that it is snowing
didn't anyone tell me?" he wails. He jumps up, energized. "We
should go and have a snowball fight. It's what we came to see, and we
got it. It doesn't often snow in February, the way it's meant to do. Actually
it's March now."
the road outside the hotel, a couple of snowballs are lobbed under the
street lights, then everyone retires to bed.
does some sightseeing. In a snow-covered square near the hotel, we meet
an old man with a balalaika. Neil pretends to play it for a moment and
photographs are taken. As we skid around the ice-rink which has formed
in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there is a loud boom. "That means
it's midday," Neil says. We walk over to the Marble Palace, and end
up in the famous Marble Hall, its windows looking out over the icy river.
"This is one of the best views there is," Neil says. "I
always say I could live in this room as a studio flat." He talks
about how the remains of the last Star were buried in quicklime. "As
in the Pet Shop Boys song 'Up Against It' ," he adds. In another
wing, we find a modern art exhibition. One exhibit is a collection of
photos of art scene parties. Neil is in the strange position of looking
at an exhibit and finding both himself and Chris - pictured at an exhibition
- in it.
and Neil have lunch at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel. Chris reflects
on his departure last night, and its moral. I'm not stupid," he says.
'One thing I know now is when to leave. I've got a new rule now. I don't
go out in groups of more than six." He relaxes this a little. Eight,
I know all the people," he says Six otherwise.
main course - crispy aromatic duck arrives, but he doesn't like the way
it is cut op, and won't eat it. Dainton gives him one of his spring rolls
and he is just about to eat it when he realists that it'll have prawns
you trying to poison me?" be asks Dainton.
Lowe and food," Neil sighs. 'It's a problem."
is," Chris agrees. "It's a problem area."
returns to one of the tour's most frequent topics of conversation: his
going to get one," Chris says. 'But I'm going to have to wait for
my birthday. I can't buy myself one."
has been a suggestion that their show Js too short for Russian audiences,
though they don't really agree.
says Chris, "I thought the concert was a perfect length."
wonders whether he should talk for longer between songs. "The trouble
is," he says, 'I don't think they'd understand."
says Chris. "You haven't really got anything to say, have you? The
messages are in your songs."
like it peacely)' Neil declares. "First role of showbusiness - leave
them wanting more."
Ramones used to play half an hour and do about fifty songs," Chris
should set a fashion for shorter shows," Neil says. They decide to
add "It's Not Unusual" at the end anyway.
the October Hall, for the soundcheck, Chris rehearses about half of 'Rent",
with his keyboard playing only in his headphones, as Neil plays guitar.
When "West End Girls" starts coming through the speakers he
says, casually, "right - I'm going".
in the dressing room before the show, Neil reminisces about famous Pet
Shop Boys concert disasters. "The first time we did 'Go West' at
the Hacienda," he recalls, "the wind machine blew the lyrics
into the audience, and I had to do the whole song improvising the lyrics."
He laughs I remember doing improvising when I was young: You're a lot
of mentally handicapped people, you're in a lift in a ship that's sinking.
What do you do?"
why you're scared of lifts," Chris says.
why I've got my phobia!" Neil exclaims. "That's it! I should
sips his white wine and water, and makes a face. "I want flat water,
not fizzy," he says. "It's a total disaster."
says that he's hungry. "You know what?" he declares. "I
don't like balsamic vinegar. So, in other words, most poncy food I don't
like. I can't wait for it to go out of fashion."
enters with her CD player and selection. They want some music to go off
too. She suggests "Mack The Knife", but they're not keen. Chris
examines her collection. "Mitch!" he chides. "Supertramp!"
you got anything more idealistic?"
asks. (More idealistic than "Mack The
that is, not more idealistic than
about Janet Jackson 'Together Again'," Chris says. "I like that."
decide on Peggy Lee's "Kiss Today Good-bye", though Chris asks
to hear "Together Again" as getting-ready music.
he coos, "this is a great track."
can't have this in the show," Neil says. '-It'll sound better than
us. Oh, this is a good song." He turns to Chris. "Why can't
you write songs like this?"
have to be talented," he shrugs.
listens to "Together Again" some more. "You know,"
he says, "ill wrote this song at home, I would probably think 'it's
too corny to play to Chris'."
like the lyrics," Chris says. "You wouldn't have written those
lyrics. You'd have written something about the Russian Revolution."
audience is quieter than in Moscow, and the only real drama takes place
when Derek wanders on with the acoustic guitar - supposedly for "Always
On My Mind" but he is one song early and Neil has to shoo him away.
Before the encores, Dainton jumps onto the stage and cheer leads the crowd,
rather effectively. Neil and Chris go back on. A girl jumps on stage and
kisses them; Neil says "this is 'Being Boring'." Before "Go
West", Neil tries to introduce everyone in Russian.
off stage, he looks at his watch again. "An hour and a half exactly,"
he announces. "And we're doing one more."
rich people for you," says Chris, underwhelmed by the crowd response.
They return for a sprightly "It's Not Unusual" but the crowd
don't seem to know the song at all and so it's a bit of an anticlimax.
just too cool, that's the problem," says Neil in the dressing room.
I don't know why we bother," Chris says.
go to dinner at a restaurant over on another of St Petersburg's islands.
Last year, Neil came to this restaurant and had to wait for hours to cross
back over because the bridge was up to let a ship through. He and Dainton
had to sleep on the restaurant tables.
the opening of Bruce Springsteen's "Streets Of Philadelphia"
comes on, there is actual applause and approving nods from the Pet Shop
is one of the best records ever made," Chris says. "Who'd have
thought Bruce Springsteen could have done this?"
is one of the songs I wish we'd written," Neil agrees. "And
the other 'Philadelphia'. One of the top five songs of the Nineties."
sightseeing by the Hermitage, Neil calls Chris on his mobile. (In St Petersburg
they call each other fairly frequently like this, often only a few hundred
yards apart, even though the calls have to be dallied via London.) Chris
is having lunch a few minutes away: Neil orders a Chicken Kiev over the
phone and says he'll be there in ten minutes.
it was a great night!" says Chris, about Dominica's, the nightclub
where Chris and most of the entourage ended up last night. "A brilliant
the afternoon, they head off to a radio station.
we play 'Believe' tonight?" Chris suggests.
could do it instead of 'It's Nut Unusual'," Neil says.
could do them both," Chris says.
problem i5$' Neil says, "we do so many cover versions it's unbelievable."
make them our own, Chris chuckles. "We have a talent for making them
do them better, that's why," says Neil. They are told that last night
the hall was officially 80% full, which in Russian terms given that nothing
may ever be quite what it seems, and that various unaccounted-for tickets
must be added to that - is considered a sell out. And they expect even
there'll be fewer rich people," Chris says, hopefully.
radio station is out of town, in a beautiful, run-down old mansion.
order to uphold your popularity," the DJ suggests. "Don't you
think it's necessary to have some kind of scandal in the papers from time
to time, in order to get the group back in the spotlight. Do you think
that this is true?"
Chris says. "l think that works...."
does work)' Neil agrees.
we don't want to do it," Chris finishes.
Shop Boys have never tried to be in the
all the time Neil says We do lots of scandalous things
t get us wrong Chris interrupts laughing
they're not in the papers
the way back into town we are pulled up at a police roadblock
be cheeky to them, DJ' says Neil as we slow down.
even try to bribe them," Chris says. "Yet."
the event, Dainton chats merrily with our interrogator, and Neil shakes
his hand, and we are waved on our
a charming man, Neil says .Doesn't like the Pet Shop Boys likes
slow down so that Neil can take a photograph of the sea Chris complains
We re not doing tourism he objects I m in a hurry
Neil panics. Disaster. He has lost a glove.
can't believe it," he says. "Those gloves Costa fortune. And,
also, they're rather useful."
shouldn't spend much money on gloves," Chris tells him, perhaps a
begins searching. "Somewhere here," he says, "is a glove."
says Chris, portentously, "is the story of a glove."
glove which, it turns out, Chris is sitting on.
the October Hall, Neil runs through 'Believe", which begins with
a sample of Elton John playing 'A Song For Guy". ~I think it's a
hit strange," Neil says, Elton John playing piano on our show."
point out that, in 'It's Not Unusual", they've also sampled Jimmy
Page playing guitar.
he says, "I felt a hit weird about that."
not like Elton will ever hear it," Pete Gleadall points out.
probably tell him)' Neil says.
Gleadall has been talking to the Russians who work at the theater. "They
told us," Pete Gleadall says, "that it was the best reaction
clearly, nominal concert behavior in Russia is even less enthusiastic.
thought it was ghastly," Neil says "and they thought it was
can't believe you're in the country," Pete Gleadall tells him.
the end, the audience is more lively tonight, and Neil is chattier. "It
features Elton John on piano," he tells a presumably-puzzled audience
before "Believe"; he introduces "Opportunities" with
"this next song is from those evil 1980s where all anybody ever cared
about was making...money!"
all sounded very loud," Chris says, before the encores.
turned it up," Neil explains.
got earache," Chris says.
they go back on, two men and one woman rush the stage.
been wanting to come here for a long time," Neil says, "so this
is a dream come true."
a dinner at which far too much vodka is drunk and far too many fried potatoes
with sour cream and garlic are eaten, the Pet Shop Boys are bundled upstairs
into the VIP balcony of a club called Luna. There is a kind of ballet
sex show on stage. The Pet Shop Boys party gets excited when one sequence
is acted out to The Original's "I Love You Baby". During a version
of "Swan Lake", the female dancer has car headlights over her
breasts. A man appears with a two-and-a-half foot wooden prosthetic as
a penis, which, at the end, is grabbed off by the woman. In me next performance,
a woman has TV over her head, magnifying it.
about brilliant," Chris says. "We've got our next show sorted
evening continues in an appropriate spirit. It is not long before Chris
is standing on the sofa, dancing to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck".
"Do you know," Chris says, 'I feel like taking all my clothes
off and dancing to The Rite Of Spring. And I wouldn't normally do that
kind of thing."
Pet Shop Boys Russian tour is over, but they will be here for several
Areagraphy Ltd 1998: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1998 Issue 19