All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 140 – Pet Shop Boys, Sunday, April 2, 2017, Royal Albert Hall

My second Pet Shop Boys gig of 2017 was a much more sedate and stately affair than the first.

It was early April 2017. I had just turned 42, and was enjoying the chance to bore people at length with how I was now the living embodiment of the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

But more importantly, it was time to see the Pet Shop Boys again! I’d had a blast at their rave-infused show at the Manchester Arena two months previously, but here at this Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Royal Albert Hall, it was time for a much more erudite evening. From my diary:

‘I had a great seat, row 16 mid arena, though cursed with annoyingly chatty people nearby. It hardly mattered, when the orchestral swirl of “Left To My Own Devices” rang through the arena – with a real orchestra! – it was clear it would be a special night.’

With the orchestral accompaniment, this was very different from a usual Pet Shop Boys show. And there were quite a few treats in store for us that night, in the shape of rarely-performed tracks and special guests.

‘How fabulous to hear “Please” album tracks like “Tonight Is Forever” and “Later Tonight” (first time since 1989, setlist.fm is telling me). Or even more fabulously, when Johnny Marr appeared, the “Behaviour” track they chose was my fave, “This must be the place I waited years to leave”! And we got the divine “Miracles”, and a resoundingly epic “Jealousy” to round off the first half.’

At this point I had to have a bit of a Neil Tennant Appreciation Moment.

‘The sound in the arena was pristine and Neil was in fine voice, just as he had been in Manchester. It’s taken me nearly 30 years to realise that Neil Tennant is, in fact, a really strong vocalist. He may not have the range or the acrobatic agility that others possess, but his grasp of the melodic power and emotional resonance of pop is unmatched.’

After a proper theatre-style interval including chocolate ice cream (for an ‘extortionate £4.50‘) it was time for the second half of the show.

‘Part two had a lot more obscure tracks, things from musicals and side projects, all very pleasant.’

However, there was still time for the boys to once again flaunt their peerless catalogue of classic pop hits.

‘We did get a beautiful version of “It Couldn’t Happen Here” and a storming “Can You Forgive Her?” had the crowd on their feet for a bit, as did the closing mega-trio of “West End Girls”, “It’s Alright” (first time since 2006, it says here!) and “It’s A Sin”.’

I felt compelled to quote that cover single from 1989 when I got home from the gig.

“I can hear it on a timeless wavelength

Never dissipating but giving us strength

I think it’s going to be all right, because the music plays forever”

I commented in my diary – ‘How much more we need those words now’ – and if it felt like that in 2017, it seems even more apt in the current pandemic-weary and divisive times.

All in all, it was a much more sedate and civilized gig than the ravetastic “Super” show I had seen in February. I was very glad to have had the chance to experience two very different versions of the Pet Shop Boys in 2017.

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