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Music Review: Pet Shop Boys – Pandemonium

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Pandemonium is the latest tour showcase for the Pet Shop Boys, capturing them in a night at London's O2 Arena, in support of their most recent album, Yes. It's a CD/DVD set, but as the visual element is always a critical component to their shows, the CD becomes just a nice, convenient extra.

The setting for the concert is perhaps a continuation of what they used for their previous Cubism show, promoting Fundamental. The stage is decorated using stackable cubes that alternately become video walls, dance platforms, or makeshift set pieces and barriers for performers to escape for costume changes. This easily fits in with the overall cube/pixel design element of Yes. The duo of Neil and Chris are supported by four dancers, who provide an array of choreographed styles (and costume changes) to accompany the show, and do an excellent job of filling in dramatic space that is sometimes left open by the sparse stage set.

The song list primarily mines from the latest record and their earlier material, while completely avoiding their two prior albums (perhaps they thought the previous tour showcased them enough). In so doing, it does create a nice greatest hits feel, with the new songs seamlessly worked in between. And with several medley sections, they manage to cram quite a lot of material into a show that's a little over an hour and a half.

It's easy to get caught up in the obvious party atmosphere of the performance, as everything from the song choices to the involved dance sequences seem to want to keep the audience up and moving around, getting lost in the good time. Songs are kept short, generally move seamlessly from one to another, and "message" songs are avoided almost entirely. Tracks such as "Love, Etc.", "Go West", "What Have I Done To Deserve This?", "New York City Boy", and "Suburbia" are the stylistic norm instead of the exception. Long-time fans should also enjoy hearing some lesser performed live tracks such as "Two Divided By Zero" and the b-side "Do I Have To?"

The sound of the concert is well mixed, with a clear emphasis on the stage sound over too much ambient crowd filler. And the pacing is kept as tight as possible, while also seeming natural enough to allow for brief set/costume changes and encore lulls. Neil's vocals are almost always spot-on, giving an excellent performance for the DVD, but also just as a listening experience on CD.

There are some quality extras included on the DVD. First, there is a commentary track to the concert, given by Neil, Chris and their creative director and set designer for the tour, Es Devlin. The trio offer up some quite interesting tidbits – and show some fun, self-deprecating humor as well – but their talkativeness is very spotty. In addition, there are two bonus performances from the show – a cover of "My Girl" by Madness, and a special Christmas song, "It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas." Three music videos from Yes are also included, for "Love, Etc.", "Did You See Me Coming?" and "All Over The World" (although the latter is sort of cheap, comprised solely of clips from the tour). Finally, there is their 10-minute montage performance from the 2009 BRIT Awards, where they were honored with a lifetime achievement award. The only downside there are the embarrassing cameos from Lady Gaga and Brandon Flowers.

If you're a fan of the Pet Shop Boys at all, there's not much – if any – fault to be found with Pandemonium. An excellent performance of an upbeat, hits-laden show from a duo that still sounds well within their prime… you can't really ask for too much more.

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About David R Perry

  • Greg Barbrick

    I have been a fan from the beginning, sounds like this is one to check out.