Dancing the night away with the Pet Shop Boys in the shiny new O2 Arena.
My second and final gig of 2009 was this night of unbridled fun with the Pet Shop Boys at the O2. I was in much the same state as I’d been at my last gig a few weeks previously, the Manics at the Roundhouse – still drained and in pain due to gallstones, and still preoccupied with university applications. But things had developed in positive directions. I had been convinced by my doctors that the only cure for my ills was to have my gallbladder removed completely, and was on the waiting list for the op. And I’d been to UCL to meet the professor in charge of the MSc in Neuroscience Language and Communication, to try and convince her that I’d make a good student on the course. Miraculously, she had agreed, and I was in the opening throes of registering to start my MSc the coming October. So a brighter future was ahead.
And while I’d been to the Manics gig in May during a particularly bad period of illness, by mid-June I was feeling a little bit more human, and was able to enjoy this Pet Shop Boys show without fearing collapse. The duo were touring their tenth album “Yes”, an upbeat and stridently tuneful delight, which had become my favourite of theirs since they’d released “Nightlife” a decade previously.
This was my first time going to a gig at the O2, which had opened from out of the ashes of the Millennium Dome two years previously. It’s become such a ubiquitous part of the London pop concert life since then that it’s strange to recall a time when we only had Wembley for our arena-sized shows. The O2 may have all the usual aircraft-hangar ambience of the arena experience, but it has definitely proved itself to be an excellent venue for the pop extravaganza in its short lifetime so far.
I went to this gig with my friend Kate, who had previously accompanied me to see the Pet Shop Boys at the Brixton Academy in 2002. She had decided to invite four more of her friends along for the evening, and so it was a much bigger crowd than usual that I found myself in for this gig. In earlier eras, I would have been very irked by this, but I don’t recall feeling that bothered – at least, not until the end, when i wanted to sprint for the tube to avoid the crowds but was forced to wait for Kate’s straggling mates to reassemble.
My diary entry for this gig is typically brief for the era. In fact, I was so resigned to the decline in my gig reviewing skills that I even made fun of it in this report:
‘Here follows my indepth gig review: It was fab! They did “Two Divided By Zero” and “King’s Cross”! Kate and I stood at the back and boogied all night! I could barely move the next day! Clearly, I am Old.‘
The inclusion of the early album tracks had been a rare treat for me. “King’s Cross” had long been one of my absolute favourites from “Actually” which I’d been delighted to also experience at my first ever Pet Shop Boys gig in Perth in 1994. And “Two Divided By Zero” was the phenomenally exciting opening track from their debut, a song that reminded me of the thrill of discovering this most wonderful pop group back in the late 80s.
Looking at the DVD of this tour, also recorded at the O2 but six months later, it’s clear that the Boys were in fantastic form. The show fizzes confidently with excitement and invention. As ever, I wish I had more of a record to remember it by but, as with my Manics gig of this era, I will forgive myself for not writing anything too in-depth, given my other preoccupations during this time.
And what with these pre-occupations, it would be a whole sixteen months until I’d find myself at a gig again after this night. The summer of 2009 carried on in quite spectacularly awful fashion. My gallstone symptoms skyrocketed and on three separate occasions I had to zoom to A&E an ambulance to get help for pain that was so bad I felt like I was being torn in two. Finally, in the autumn, two fantastic things happened – the wretched malfunctioning organ was removed from my body, and I started my MSc at UCL. Which, by the time I next found myself in a gig crowd, was nearly complete.