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Finally: The Pet Shop Boys live in Vancouver

September 26, 2009

A week ago the Pet Shop Boys performed in Vancouver for the first time in their 28-year career, and I was there. This was a big deal for me – PSB is one of my all-time favourite pop groups. For years I’ve been captivated by the Brit duo’s dance/electro-pop sound, their delicious irony and their ambiguous personas.

But in the days leading up to the sold-out concert, when I mentioned to some people that I was going to the show, they looked at me with blank expressions. I think they were befuddled by how Chris, the jazz/world music/alternative-indie rock loving music snob could possibly like the Pet Shop Boys.

The Boys caught my ear in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It wasn’t so much the music that engaged me at first, but the lyrics. If you paid attention, you could hear the social commentary about Thatcherism in songs like “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money”), and “Being Boring” perfectly encapsulated the overwhelming sense of loss in the age of AIDS. Then I fell for Tennant’s voice, which is both ironic and melancholic. Finally, Lowe’s layers of keyboard sounds and PSB’s driving, dancefloor-friendly beats grabbed me and never let go.

The concert matched my expectations: the music struck the right chords; the show was dynamic and visually striking; and it was a fun party. There were moments when I was a bit uncomfortable with the absence of a band – aside from Lowe’s keyboard playing and occasional electronic drumming, and a few trumpet blasts from backup singers/dancers, there wasn’t a lot of live music being played. Pre-programmed synths and drum machines figured prominently in the mix. But harping on that would be missing the point. The Pet Shop Boys are all about Tennant and Lowe, and the feeling of release they create with their evocative songs. By that measure, the long-awaited concert had all the elements I had hoped for.

Neil Tennant at The Picky Pet on West Georgia. I found a link to the photo on the PSB Twitter page, where this intriguing tweet went out two nights before the show: “Fascism alive and well in Vancouver. 2 id’s required to get in a club. Pathetic”

“It’s a Sin” at the Vancouver show:

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One comment

  1. Well, I can’t say I’m a PSB lover (though I do admire Tennant’s voice), but I understand why you’re drawn to them. I have a similar thing with The The – Soul Mining is still in high rotation 😉



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