||April 26, 2014. Tonight, the Pet
Shop Boys play at Terminal 5 on the west side of
Manhattan. This morning they left Atlantic City, where
they played the previous night, and travelled by car —
stopping on the way to visit Angelo Badalamenti at his
home in New Jersey to discuss the songs he is arranging
for their Royal Albert Hall Proms performance in July.
At the venue, after a brief soundcheck, a meet ’n’ greet
is scheduled where Neil and Chris will speak with, and
sign something for, those fans who have arranged
paid) for them to do so. Neil and Chris stand to one side
of the still—empty Terminal 5 ?oor, about
from the stage, and people are let in by security in ones
and twos and fours.
Literally, naturally, watches
and listens. Here are some random snapshots, as people ?le
through — male
meet ’n’ greeters are denoted by
“M”, female by “F”:
M: [with great enthusiasm] l’ve
had a wonderful time!
Neil: We’ve had quite a good
F apologises for Neil and Chris having to do
Chris: No, we like this bit. It’s the show we
F: Are you ?fying tonight, or tomorrow?
Chris: That’s none of your business, is it?
Why don’t you sing on the ‘Thursday’ song?
Because I’m wearing a mirrorball at the time — it’d be
Neil: [talking about the show in
last night, and how the gauze messed
up during “Rent”] That’s the ?rst time it’s gone wrong
the beginning of the tour. And then I nearly got
the giggles. That’s never happened to me before.
you go to the casino?
Neil: You shouldn’t gamble — it’s a
losers’ game... Enjoy the show tonight. It’s going to be a
proper rock ’n’ roll gig tonight.
a fan all dressed in orange who says he has come from Fort
Jefferson in Long
Chris: We’ve travelled
a lot further than that.
M: Of course. As musicians
you travel all over the world.
M: Only one wish.
Chris: It’s not going to be granted.
Neil signs his T-shirt instead.
[with wife]: I proposed to her in front of you guys. [asks
them to sign a photo of their wedding
Neil: Should I write ‘congratulations’ on
that? Assuming you can read my handwriting.
I won’t write over your face.
F: Football or rugby?
[inspecting fan is t—shirt] Is that David Bowie?
Neil: Is he coming tonight? If he comes we
could do “l-lallo Spaceboy”.
Chris: That’s what we
should have done at Coachella.
Neil: He wouldn’t
have minded doing it.
M: [explains he is ?om
Poland] When I was 16, I was learning to dance to your
Neil: I actually went to Poland on holiday a
couple of years ago.
Neil: 60’s the new 30. We’re
playing the Exit festival on my birthday.
used to go to Balthazar, down in Soho. It’s probably
social Siberia by now.
M: I love the play, Closer
Neil: Very, very underrated. It was
going to come to America. Sandra Bernhard was going to do
Frances Barber part. We had a meeting with her and
Chris: [refusing to sign the “Leaving”
twelve- inch single with Neil s face on the front cover]
You’ve got the wrong one. I’ll sign it on the back.
M: [says he is going to get into the queue for the
Chris: I would go back home and have a
lie down if I were you.
Neil: Have a cup of tea.
And something to eat. A ham sandwich comes to mind.
M: [says he has been a fan since the beginning of the
Neil: [?rmly] Mid-eighties.
[continues by saying that he recently looked at their old
videos and that they look like little boys]
[dryly] It was a long time ago.
Chris: I know
you’re not meaning to be insulting...
F: Do you
know how long I’ve waited for this. My mum bought these
tickets for me.
Neil: What a nice present.
“Inside a dream” is my favourite song.
F: [asks whether they might do some remixes
Neil: Funnily enough, we had some done for
Coachella, and we were going to put them on the
Wide Web. Glad you reminded us. We’d forgotten about them.
Two female fans are particularly glittery.
Chris: I love a bit of glitter.
Neil: So do I.
Neil explains to a fan the disastrous tale of their
announced then cancelled concert at the
some years ago, explaining the role their American agent
played in the debacle.
Neil: Our former agent...
Consequently the Hollywood Bowl isn’t talking to us. We’re
from the Hollywood Bowl. The fan asks about the
upcoming Proms concert.
Neil: Oh, that’s not going
to be cancelled. The Hollywood Bowl is one of the only
ever cancelled. Apart from our ?rst tour.
M: Ijust want to say “hi”. Nothing to sign.
Chris and Neil sign the laminated pass that gives access
to the meet ’n’ greet anyway.
M: [reminiscing about
an encounter with Neil at an earlier concert] I said,
“Neil, you’re a very
sexy man,” and you ?ashed your
Calvin Kleins at me.
Neil: I probably did. It was
20 years ago. I was only 40.
M: [asks if they will
perform with Sylvia Mason- James again]
Sylvia? Oh, I imagine so, one day. We haven’t been doing
that kind of show.
Two female fans.
F: Do we
They get hugs.
Neil talks to them
about North Carolina. “North Carolina is a very nice
place. I’m thinking of
going to live there.”
Neil: [lying] Tonight I’m going to walk on for anal encore
and sing “Edelweiss”.
Chris: And we’ll all burst into
M: I want to say something witty and
profound, and it’s not going to happen.
evening” is enough.
M: I have a few questions. I
would like to hear rare songs.
Neil: It’s a
M: As a fan, you have many good rare
Neil: We try to do a mixture. We do a song
like “Fugitive” on this tour.
Chris: That’s the
?rst question — how many more?
Neil: [politely] I
think that’s the last question.
introduces herself as from Jamaica.
Neil: You heard
the Pet Shop Boys in Jamaica?
We’ve been to Jamaica on holiday. 1 used to go there every
year at one time. For some reason
[reminiscing about a previous encounter] You gave me your
Neil: No guitars in this show.
She requests that they play “Before” when they next tour.
Chris: Oh, I love “Before”.
Neil: We probably
will. Good idea.
M: [talking about Coachella] I
heard it was really dusty for you.
Neil: It was
dusty for everyone. And the sand blows in the gear. But we
F: Oh my god, I’m going to freak out.
Neil: [?rmly] No, you mustn’t do that.
you for making my teen years.
Talking to two male
fans about Dubai:
Neil: Will we like Dubai? I don’t
know what to expect, other than a lot of tall buildings.
M: The tallest building in the world is there.
Chris: I won’t be going up there.
[In fact when
they go to Dubai, they both go up the Burj Khali a.]
A male fan says that they should play “I want a
Chris: [dubious] Is that one of our best?
Neil suggests that perhaps they could get Stuart Price
to do something with it, though it doesn’t
like a ?rm plan.
A male fan asks Neil whether it
had been a good idea to go back to the United Kingdom
?rst meeting with Bobby ‘O’.
was only here for a few days.
M: I understood you
wanted to stay here.
Neil: No, I’m too English. I
A male fan correctly identi?es the
make of Neil’s glasses.
Neil: Are you a designer?
M: No, I’m a label whore.
M: [presenting Neil
and Chris with a poster which includes on it the title of
every single Pet
Shop Boys song] The bad news is, I’m
not leaving without a picture.
Neil and Chris:
[instantly, in union] Yes, you are.
the poster] Is this every song? It doesn’t look that many,
Chris: We’re not very proli?c, are we?
Some gifts are presented from a Japanese fan club.
Chris: [gratefully] You know, these are the ?rst gifts
we’ve had. We only do this for the gifts.
meet ’n’ greet, Neil eats in catering. Chris retires to
the room with the accurate sign
outside it: Chris’s Nap
Room. Back in the main dressing room, Neil wonders how to
room look less bright and unwelcoming. “Let’s
see how we do mood lighting,” he says,
and turns off
the main light switch. Much better. “There we are — mood
He lies down on the sofa and talks some
more about Coachella for a while. “I was the second
oldest person on stage there, the ?rst being Bryan Ferry,”
he says, and explains how much posher the whole event was
than he expected. “It’s actually on a polo ground. I was
wasn’t really in the desert.” The
dancers can be heard in the corridor outside. “The dancers
taken up knitting,” Neil notes. “They sit in their
dressing room manically knitting.”
He naps for a while,
then sits upright.
“It’s contact lens time,” he
“Good evening, New York! We’re back — so
soon!” announces Neil between “Opportunities” and “Love is
a bourgeois construct”, early in the show. As predicted,
the venue is rammed with
people, and the atmosphere is
celebratory. Unlike the previous night, smoke hangs in the
air and the lasers ?ll the tight space above the audience
thrillingly. (The full set-list: “Axis”, “One more chance
/A face like that”, “Opportunities (let’s make lots of
money)”, “Love is a bourgeois construct”, “Fugitive”,
“Integral”, “I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing”,
“Suburbia”, “I’m not scared”, “Fluorescent”, “West End
Girls”, “Somewhere”, “Leaving”, “Thursday”, “Love
etc.”, “I get excited (you get excited
“Miracles”, “It’s a sin”, “Domino dancing”, “Always on my
mind”, “Go west” and “Vocal”.)
“Well,” says Neil,
changing backstage, with trademark understatement, “It
wasn’t a disaster.” Although he then adds, directing the
thought to tour manager Andy Crookston, who is busy
opening the Champagne, “God, it’s a small stage.” “It’s
the width that’s the thing,” says Andy. “It’s about ?ve
steps across, to be honest,” says Neil.
drinks a vodka, Neil has Champagne, and also some
Pete Gleadall comes in.
says. “Better microphone, much better sound.”
have we waited until this show?” Chris asks.
Generally the mood is one of satisfaction, both about
tonight and this whole short American
“It’s been good,” says Neil. “All the way through last
night this guy was going ‘Pet Shop Boys, you fucking
rock!’ It was great. I was singing the whole show at him.”
“They’re so strange, those casino gigs,” says
“It was so cold,” Neil agrees. “I thought
that I was going to get pnemnonia. And the air-
conditioning takes away all the smoke, so you can’t see
the lasers.” There is a knock on the door, and in comes an
old friend, Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche; they begin to
catch up on news since they last met.
still haven’t done our song,” says Neil. “We remixed it.
We were going through the Fleetwood Mac thing.” “The Tango
In The Night thing,” agrees Sondre. “We’ve come through
that,” says Neil.
They discuss when they last saw
Sondre play, which, they conclude, was in Naples.
“That was one of our favourite shows ever,” says Neil. “It
was so great. A jewel of a theatre —
just you and a
guitar. Like, I always think I prefer Elton just with a
piano. And you made all these
said ‘pronto’ a lot,” demurs Sondre.
we were worried we were going to get mugged,” says Neil.
Then they talk more about the song the Pet Shop Boys gave
Sondre. “Now I’ve got used to your vocals on it,”
Sondre says, to Neil.
“Yeah, that’s what you said
eight years ago,” says Neil. “I’m meant to be the backing
vocals. I’m meant to be Lindsay Buckingham — you’re Stevie
Someone asks Neil whether he and Chris saw
Kraftwerk at Moogfest.
“No,” he replies, “but they
watched us. How nerve-wracking is that?”
know those guys?” asks Sondre.
“No,” says Neil, as
though the notion is too improbable to entertain. “Does
This quick a?ershow drink turns into quite
a party, a dozen or so friends drinking until well past
midnight. At one point Neil says, “It has always bugged me
that we weren’t more successful in
America — we could
do a show in Las Vegas‘. It’d be great.” At another he
announces, “I always
say, if I was a young musician,
it’s a great time to reinvent rock — EDM is so rubbish.”
he reminisces about a trip to New York in the
mid—Eighties, Chris interjects “Is that when you
interviewed Marilyn?” (It was.) Eventually the party
begins to break up. Though not everyone is
convinced that the night is yet over.
need,” says Neil, “is a hot dog. I know it sounds
terrible. Maybe a little bit of mustard. Of
don’t eat the bun.”