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  Literally Issue 40 REHEARSAL     Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Back
  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
that, crammed in a crowded makeshift wardrobe room with about half-a-dozen other people, some crucial decisions must be made.

“So what are we wearing?” Chris asks Neil.

“We’re just wearing what we wore yesterday,” says Neil. .

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.
Disappointment is instant.

“Oh, I knew it’d be a disaster,” he says. “It’s the wrong shape. It’s too ?at.”

“It is, yeah,” Neil agrees.

“It’s impossible anymore to ?nd a decent
baseball hat,” Chris frets.

As 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 swap them.

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.”

Instead Chris 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.”

Neil says, as one would: “You’re Chris Lowe! You must have.”

They put on their white jackets.

“Is that 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
much difference really.”

“They’re like wedding out?ts,” says Chris.

Neil nods. “It’s a bit civil partnership.”

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
preferred airlines aren’t available, they won’t go.

Angela, their manager, arrives.

“Aren’t you excited?” she asks.

“Well, we’re doing rehearsals,” says Neil. “It’s not exciting. It’s a process.”

“The festival 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
point.”

They 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.

“No,” she 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 the show.

“Yes,” says Angela.

Neil suggests they wear the black spiky costumes that they ended the show with at the very start, and they debate back and forth whether
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?” Neil asks.

“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.”

As they 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.

“That’s a great bit,” says Neil. “If a bit Ibiza.”

“You’re 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.

“I’ve never liked mine,” Neil responds.

The debate turns back to what they should wear when they ?rst appear. After a while,
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 act.”

At this moment, Chris has another thought about clothing, this time a more prosaic one. “Can you get my jumper?” he asks. “It’s
freezing.”

Neil wants to wear jeans with the orange jacket. “We don’t like the orange trousers,” he tells Jeffrey, who has returned. “I always feel
more comfortable in something rock’n’roll-y.”

“It dilutes it a bit,” says Jeffrey, evenly.

“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 asks.

“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

I told.

“They can wait until 6. l 5,” he says.

“Right then,” 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

following day.

“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.

The second run-through is, as you would hope, smoother than the ?rst.

“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,” Neil argues.

“It’s just wrong, that way round,” says Chris.

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 change now.
“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.

Rob argues that one of the ?lms that plays behind them — footage of people climbing up a building — isn’t good.

“It should be a burning city, really, shouldn’t it?” reasons Neil. “You could almost have ?ames.”

“No,” says Rob, almost ?ercely. “Absolute no. That’s the biggest cliché in the world.”

Some kind of progress has been made.

“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.”

“I love strobes,” adds Chris. “And lasers.”

  
 
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