||The current Pet Shop Boys tour,
Electric, began in its full incarnation on May 13, 2013.
But as explained in News — the tour was originally
scheduled to begin in March, and when the early American
dates were cancelled, one Mexican concert had already gone
on sale. The Pet Shop Boys decided that they would perform
this show as a one—off, unveiling an early stripped-down
version of the Electric tour production that would never
be seen in this form again.
The Final rehearsals took
place at a rehearsal studio in east London on March 15,
2013. Literally was there.
Within seconds of
arrival at the rehearsal studios, Literally hears two
sentences which perhaps give as good a sense as any of
what to expect from a Pet Shop Boys’ performance in 2013.
The ?rst: “There’s pogo sticks.” The second: “Stravinsky
has been reinstated.”Though this is the last day of
rehearsal before the production is packed off to Mexico,
there are still some fairly basic decisions that remain to
be made. In a few minutes they will run through the whole
set for the ?rst of two times. But before
in a crowded makeshift wardrobe room with about
half-a-dozen other people, some crucial decisions must be
“So what are we wearing?” Chris asks Neil.
“We’re just wearing what we wore yesterday,” says
Chris considers this. “What did we wear
yesterday?” he asks.
“Just white,” says Neil.
“Does that look good enough?” Chris wonders.
While this question hangs in the air, he tries on a
baseball hat that has just arrived.
“Oh, I knew it’d be a disaster,” he says.
“It’s the wrong shape. It’s too ?at.”
yeah,” Neil agrees.
“It’s impossible anymore to ?nd
baseball hat,” Chris frets.
discussions about wardrobe become more and more heated,
Neil keeps reminding everyone that the run-through is
scheduled to begin at 1.30. Eventually, he concedes to the
inevitable. “Okay,” he says. “Let’s move the rehearsal to
1.45.” A stern pause. “But that doesn’t mean two o’clock.”
First, shoes must be considered. Neil tries some on.
“These are too small,” he announces. “These are 42.
I’m a 43.”
Jeffrey points out that last time shoes
had come they had been too big, and Jeffrey had had to
Neil tries again. “I can’t get in
these,” he says.
“Bastard,” says Jeffrey.
“See, really I’m an eight-and-a-half,” says Neil, “is the
fact of the matter”. He suggests he wears the Dior ones
he’s worn for the past two years.
Meanwhile, a few
yards away, a problem surfaces with the dancers’
underwear. And Chris
is concerned that terms are being
de?ned with su?icient precision.
“How does this
‘run-through’ differ from a dress rehearsal?” he inquires.
“It doesn’t,” says Neil.
Neil is handed the box
which contains his in-ear monitors. On it is written his
name. “‘Neil s Tennant’ — that’s me,” he nods approvingly.
“That’s currently me.”
The clock ticks on.
“We should go down and harass everyone,” says Neil.
“We’ve got two of these to do.”
thinks about tomorrow.
“I’m going to have to do
shopping for baseball caps,” he says. “Shopping for
baseball caps is not enjoyable.” Maybe there’s a way out.
“Hopefully I’ve got a black one at home.”
says, as one would: “You’re Chris Lowe! You must have.”
They put on their white jackets.
mine?” Neil wonders. “It feels tighter than yesterday.”
Chris hands him the other.
“Is that better?”
“I think it might be,” he says. “There’s not
“They’re like wedding out?ts,”
Neil nods. “It’s a bit civil
On the way to the stage, they discuss
the pros and cons of different South American airlines
with Andy Crookston. Chris says that if their
airlines aren’t available, they won’t go.
their manager, arrives.
“Aren’t you excited?” she
“Well, we’re doing rehearsals,” says Neil.
“It’s not exciting. It’s a process.”
will be exciting,” she says.
“If I was watching,
I’dbe excited,” says Neil. “We’re just in a world of micro
details right now.”
He is asked whether his in-ears
need to be taped into place.
“No,” he says,
“because the great thing about this show is that I don’t
take the T-shirt off at any
separate. Chris waits at stage left, near to Pete Gleadall
and all the gear. Neil stands on the other side. After
“Axis” begins, they walk towards each other. The set they
perform today continues as follows: “One more chance/A
face like that”, “Opportunities” (including the “all the
love that we have...” outro from the original single
version), “Memory of the future”, “Fugitive”, “Integral”,
“I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing”, “Suburbia”,
“I’m not scared”, “InVisible”, “The last to die”,
“Somewhere”, “West End girls”, “Domino dancing”, “Love
etc.”, “It’s a sin”, “Always on my mind”, “Requiem in
denim and leopardskin” and “Go West”. After the ?nal song
of the main set, “Always on my mind”, Neil says to this
near empty room in London, “Buenas
noches — thank you
very much, good night.”
Immediately afterwards, the
key participants gather to discuss how it went. .
“It’s bizarre that we’re doing one show twomonths before
the rest,” says Neil.
“It’s somewhere in between
rock and theatrical,” Chris notes, “without being either.”
“Is it a disaster?” Neil asks Angela.
replies, with the caveat that there were lots of technical
mistakes. “Should we start with notes?” she suggests.
“Oh god...” Chris exclaims. “Notes!”
“Do we go
song by song?” Angela wonders.
“That’s up to the
director,” says Neil.
“Song by song,” says Lynn,
and soon they are talking about intricate lighting issues.
First, Neil says that the day’s second and ?nal
run-through should be at 4.30pm.
“An hour from
now,” Andy Crookston con?rms.
“Yes,” says Neil.
“Do you think we should drop the white?” asks Chris,
meaning the white out?ts they just
wore at the start of
“Yes,” says Angela.
they wear the black spiky costumes that they ended the
show with at the very start, and they debate back and
a very bold and extreme costume or
something simple would be better. “A festival is a very
different vibe,” Neil points out, somewhat arguing against
his previous suggestion. “At Roskilde in 1997 we just wore
blue suits and it was a triumph.” But soon he is once
again arguing in the opposite direction. “If we have an
impact?il costume, why don’t we use it?” Then, as always,
there are eyewear issues.
“Would glasses not work
better?” Chris suggests. a
“For me or for you?”
“I’m wearing glasses anyway,” says
Chris, in a tone of voice which suggests that to have
imagined anything else would be absurd.
“I think it
cuts off eye contact,” says Neil.
“The bit that
seems to drag for me,” says
Chris, “is the
beginning of ‘Domino dancing’. It seems to go on forever.”
It is pointed out to him that this is when the audience is
supposed to be ' watching the two dancers pogoing. (They
are dressed as kind of amorphous glittery bushes who
bounce up and down.)
Jeffrey says that he needs to
go. “Can I run off, and you shout when you need me,” he
says, “because I’m doing lycra on an orange jacket.”
Neil worries about how static “I’m not scared” feels.
Rob Sinclair, their lighting designer, suggests throwing
in some lasers.
“It doesn’t feel like a Very
strutty song,” Lynn points out.
“It isn’t,” Neil
agrees. “It feels like a different- kind-of—spotlight
song. The lyric is an accusing lyric.”
discuss “Love etc.” Angela says “I worried how few people
there are onstage.”
“That’s what I worry about,”
says Neil immediately, as though he has been waiting to
say this. He wonders whether they should use the
animated “Love etc.” video in the background once more.
“I don’t think we can recycle that,” says Chris. “It’s
a new show.”
“I miss the mic stand in ‘Love etc.’,”
says Neil. “And then I’d have it for ‘Always on my mind’.
It’s good to have.”
Conversation turns to the
moment the dancers appear on stilts.
great bit,” says Neil. “If a bit Ibiza.”
obsessed with Ibiza,” says Chris.
“Only because you
mentioned it yesterday,” Neil retorts.
“I just said
it’d be a great show to do in Ibiza,’ says Chris. “You’ve
turned that into a negative.”
There’s more talk
about costumes. Chris tells Neil he should wear the orange
out?t. “Yours is great,” he argues.
liked mine,” Neil responds.
The debate turns back
to what they should wear when they ?rst appear. After a
Neil summarises what he seems to consider
a.fundamenta1 principle when it comes to the Pet Shop Boys
and what they wear: “Generally
speaking, Chris looks
better in outrageous clothes than I do. It’s just the
At this moment, Chris has another thought
about clothing, this time a more prosaic one. “Can you get
my jumper?” he asks. “It’s
to wear jeans with the orange jacket. “We don’t like the
orange trousers,” he tells Jeffrey, who has returned. “I
more comfortable in something
“It dilutes it a bit,” says
“It’s only for this one festival
show,” says Neil.
“Does ‘West End girls’ seem like
a song it’s appropriate to sing in an orange jacket?” Rob
“I know,” says Neil. “It doesn’t feel orange
jacket—y. But the fact is, it’s the palette of that part
of the show.”
Neil asks Chris whether, if they came
on wearing the black spiky jackets, he could wear that for
the rest of the opening section.
“Well, I’ve worn
that mirrored jacket for a whole show,” Chris points out.
Eventually, the meeting concludes, though without all
the key issues being resolved.
“Well, that was
worth doing,” says Chris. “Now we don’t need to do it
again, now we’ve got that sorted.”
They are told
that the next rehearsal is due to start in 15 minutes.
“Let’s do 4.45,” say Neil.
“They’ve got to
start loading out at 6,” he is
can wait until 6. l 5,” he says.
Chris sighs, preparing himself.
“Do it all again.”
Finally they agree to wear the spiky black jackets at
the beginning. Neil points out that this way they’ll be
sure to be in the paper the
“Job done,” he says.
Before the main run-through,
Neil and the dancers have a mini-rehearsal of the
choreography for “Go West”. Chris watches. “Very
entertaining,” he says.
It is 4.45. Time to start.
“I’m going to the loo,” Neil announces.
second run-through is, as you would hope, smoother than
“Do you think ‘Always on my mind’ is the
right song to end on?” Chris worries afterwards. “I think
it should be ‘It’s a sin’.”
“We always do that,”
“It’s just wrong, that way round,”
Angela suggests that they take out
“Leopardskin. . .” Neil nods. “I’ve got it — we end with
‘It’s a sin’, encore is ‘Always on my
mind’ and ‘Go
West’.” He asks Lynn whether it’s feasible to make that
“For Mexico?” she asks, clearly concerned.
“The problem is, ‘It’s a sin’ is such an end,” Neil
says to her. “You clapped, and you know the show.”
It does complicate the ?nal costume change, but in the end
they opt for the simplest solution of all — they will
simply come on for the encores in the same clothes they
were wearing when they left the stage.
that one of the ?lms that plays behind them — footage of
people climbing up a building — isn’t good.
should be a burning city, really, shouldn’t it?” reasons
Neil. “You could almost have ?ames.”
Rob, almost ?ercely. “Absolute no. That’s the biggest
cliché in the world.”
Some kind of progress has
“I’ve got a sense of the show now,” says
Neil, “which I didn’t this morning. We’Ve got a show. Of
sorts. I think they’re going to love it.”
strobes,” adds Chris. “And lasers.”