|Interviews USA Tour 1992|
The Pet Shop Boys’ American tour begun in Miami on 19th March. Or at least it should have. All afternoon there had been a problem with a very loud buzz through the PA and half an hour before the show was due to begin, and with the audience already gathered outside, it was decided that there was no option but to postpone the show until tomorrow.
A day late, the American tour began fairly triumphantly. Beforehand there had perhaps been a little apprehension about performing this show in America. The Pet Shop Boys are less well-known here than in most of the world, a lot of the songs in the set have never been hits here, and Neil and Chris have often been advised that in America such a theatrical show -especially one without a live drummer – would be frowned upon. (Even the two musicians who were playing and were supposed to be at the side of the stage, were often forced backstage in the smaller American theaters.)
They took the opposite view – that something so different would be appreciated all the more -and so it transpired. MTV flew down to Miami to interview the Pet Shop Boys and film two songs, “Opportunities” and “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Their report, which aired repeatedly over the next few days and which just about everyone in America seemed to see, was loud and energetic, and closed with one of the Miami audience energetically proclaiming the show “a theatrical masterpiece”.
Between Houston (where they played in an open air Fun fair) and San Francisco (in a club where on both nights members of the audience jumped on stage; the first night one leapt onto Chris’s bed during “Your Funny Uncle”, the second another hopped up to kiss Neil) they stopped over to record The Tonight Show, a famous American show along the lines of Wogan. The usual host is Johnny Carson but that night it was compared by his regular stand-in, comedian Jay Leno. The Pet Shop Boys had arranged to perform two songs live – “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “How Can
You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” – and to be interviewed. They were appearing with some of the concert cast – Sylvia Mason-James, Derek Green and Pam Steven on additional vocals, Trevor and Mark (in their angel costumes) dancing,
J. J. Belle on guitar and Scott Davidson on keyboards – but had emphasized, both on the phone from New Orleans and during rehearsals, that they should clearly appear as a duo. During the first song (“Where The Streets …”) Chris noticed -watching a monitor showing the broadcast -that he hadn’t appeared on camera once and, understandably miffed, walked off during the song. The people from the TV show refused to re-shoot the song and so the Pet Shop Boys refused to play their second song.
In Los Angeles they were visited backstage by rapper Young MC and – perhaps more unexpectedly – by Guns “N’ Roses singer Axi Rose, who proclaimed the show “gorgeous”, complained bitterly that they didn’t play “Being Boring” and said that in between recording the new Guns “N’ Roses LP he usually listened to Behavior. In New York Liza Minnelli and Bruce Weber both came to see them. In Montreal, where it had been raining, during “So Hard” lots of the audience put up their umbrellas in imitation of the action on-stage.
The American press agreed they had never seen anything like it. Some were horrified, but most were enthusiastic. Here is a selection of the reviews:
Barry Walters, San Francisco Examiner: “Sensational Pet project”
“When the new world order is firmly established and Madonna becomes president, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe
– the Pet Shop Boys – will be England’s Prime Ministers. Their Wednesday show was the best, boldest pop spectacle to sweep through the Bay Area since Madonna ‘S Blond Ambition tour. And like Madonna’s staged extravaganza, this was more performance art than rock concert. This was the future of pop. It was opera. It was fabulous … the result was meta-theater-theater about theater. The staging commented on itself at every turn … The Pets and the Material Girl draw on similar sources – cabaret, disco escapism, post modern deconstruction, religion, sex, camp and the love of a good, gaudy show-stopper followed by another and another. If Madonna fulfilled the dream of her “Justify My. Love” video and became a male couple, she’d be the Pet Shop Boys.”
Richard Cromelin, Los Angeles Times: “Rock- Theater Revival”. “A slam-bang production in the Rock theater tradition that includes David Bowie ‘S “Diamond Dogs” extravaganza, Genesis’ concerts back when Peter Gabriel wore animal heads and silly costumes, Pink Floyd building “The Wall” and Madonna’s parading her “Blond Ambition”. Unlike those forerunners, though, the English duo’s endeavor didn’t really rely on a rock star’s charisma … in fact, except for Neil Tennant’s prominence as lead singer, the show could pretty much go on the road while the Pet Shop Boys themselves relax at home -.. For all the underlying technology it’s the human elements that linger. And for all the knowing edges and satirical thrusts of their tart social commentaries about class, sex, art, consumption and sex, the Pet Shop Boys managed to generate a sympathy – not for themselves as stars, certainly, and not even as stage characters, but for the confusing, sad world whose poets they’ve become.”
Lori Butters, Salt Lake Tribune: “Pet Shop Boys unleash techno-pop assault.”
“It was a stage show laced with violent and sexual undertones – a ballerina with a gun, a woman strangling herself with a telephone cord, simulated oral sex acts, and individuals with chains and whips…
Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune: “Pet Shop Boys’ other-world concert engulfs fans.
“The Pet Shop Boys don’t so much perform their music as participate in it … their show was a mix. Of sly humor, wretched excesses, theatrical razzle-dazzle and digitally impeccable dance music that only incidentally at times included its two. “Stars” … not all the jokes worked, however. It’s A Sin” burned out on sexual overkill, and the shopping-cart-world-run-amok in “Suburbia” was more than a little obvious…
JJon Parales, New York Times: “Serious Spectacle From The Pet Shop Boys.”
“In the era of the largely prerecorded, minutely planned pop spectacle, the Pet Shop Boys are masters. At Radio City Music Hall the two Pet Shop Boys and a troupe of dancers and singers unveiled a spectacle that was strange, doleful, funny and consistently absorbing. Even more unlikely, it added new dimensions to the songs. Madonna, David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd now have serious competition
Most of the Pet Shop Boys’ songs are unassertive ditties set to unabashedly mechanical elector-pop, perking along with a light boom-chicka-boom. Neil Tennant sings in a thin, nasal voice about romance and a more unusual pop topic, the culture of consumption
tthe performance showed that the Pet Shop Boys know all about artifice, yet they haven’t forgotten that pop’s formulas can crystallize genuine emotions.”
Jim Farber, Daily News (New York): “Pet Shop Boys: Mind over motion.” If you had to pick one word for this show -besides brilliant – it would be busy … since so much of PSB’s high-tech dance music is constructed by machines anyway, and since the stars are, by their own admission, about as charismatic as your tax accountant, it was practically a prerequisite to stress theatrics over musicianship …Unlike other pop theatrical concerts by, say, Madonna, this extravaganza didn’t try to rouse. It aimed to overwhelm, to inspire intellectual awe.”
DDan Aquilante, New York Post: “Call ’em Pet Slop Boys.”
“In a stunning display of pretentiousness – so overdone, under-thought and outrageous that it was hardly recognizable as a pop-music performance – the Pet Shop Boys made their New York City debut … The video-come-to-life routines included the revolting opening English schoolboy number which ended with simulated masturbation … after a show like this Radio City Music Hall should install windows to air the place out. In another scene Tennant was strapped into an electric chair for a mock execution while fifth-wheel Lowe played a dog boy caged on the opposite side of the stage, Too bad concern director David Alden wasn’t strapped into on’ Sparky for a jolt or two himself. The show was a steaming heap of gobbledygook.”
Barbara Jaeger, The Record (New York): “The Pet Shop Boys, unleashed and ugly.” “The Pet Shop Boys have come up with something unique, But they should never have taken it on the road … There’s no drama or humor to be found in the two-hour production, only a mindless, endless series of grotesque characters and disturbing angry images
Forcing people into cages and then jolting them with pseudo-electric shocks is not my idea of entertainment.”
Vince Aleifti, The Village Voice (New York):
“”Where the Boys Are.”
“It sounds like some hell bent, low-rent David Lynch-meets-Robert Wilson Vaudeville freak show, but it’s the closest pop has come to surrealist stagecraft since Jean-Paul Gouda concocted Grace Jones’s radically theatrical One Man Shows … Both Boys affected the glazed deadpan of runway models; no matter what happens (they’re stuck in those cages, pawed over, kicked about, taunted, and elector shocked), they’re blasé as shit … the pacing of the show tended to frustrate applause, but nothing stifled the my-idol! screams these anti-idols got by merely stepping from the wings.” Rob Taunenbaum, Rolling Stone (reviewing New York):
“”This British duo faced a formidable challenge:
how to impress a legion of fans prone to staying at home and watching MIW. Their solution was to amplify the eclecticism that has become a postmodern cliché, to combine ideas from Twin Peaks and Las Vegas, Les Miserable and Car Wash, Robert Wilson’s multimedia theater and the Jce Capades, and set a new standard for pop flamboyance and grandiosity.
The Pet Shop Boys ’91 will join Jim Hendrix ’67, David Bowie ’72 and the Romanies ’76 as pivotal events in concert history. However it may also be remembered as an epic display of pretentiousness.
James Brown, New Muscle Express (reviewing New York): “Kinch Invasion”
“Performance incorporates the qualities of fine art, advertising, crime, sex, dancing, fame and, most importantly, color and sound. Addressing the ins and outs of everyday life, it fully realists the Pet Shop Boys’ recorded achievements as a stage show…the Pet Shop Boys have surpassed themselves in achieving the desired step towards Broadway.”
David Fricke, Melody Maker (reviewing New York): “West End It was “The Wall” on laughing gas; Laurie Anderson inhabited by the spirit of Busboy Berkeley; Sglvador Dali and Bob Fosse mounting a Broadway production of Ray Davies’ “Arthur”. It was an inspired glorious collision of theatrical imagination, cinematic gestures, art school nerve, topical gravity and unapologetic indulgence. It was a celebration of risk and a sublime examination of the sexual confusion, insatiable materialism and incurable ennui that makes schoolboys want to be pop-stars and pop stars aspire to be…well, something else.”
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 1992: All Articles have been Taken From Literally 1992 Issue 6