|Spain 2000 Tour|
Friday, July 20.
For the final date of there 2000 tour, the Pet Shop Boys fly from London to Bilbao in Spain, where a four hour drive west along the coast to Oviedo awaits them. In the airport car park the driver and Spanish ‘remoter confer at some length. “Marvellous how they all speak Spanish, isn’t it?” comments
Neil. The Pet Shop Boys are performing tomorrow night at a Spanish festival called Doctor Music, coming on after Beck.
“I want to watch Beck,” says Neil. “He’s a really great dancer.”
“I’ve never really rated Beck,” says Chris. “You can appreciate what he’s doing, but it’s not very emotionally stirring.”
“I like ‘I’m a loser, baby, why don’t you kill me?’,” says Neil.
“Well,” says Chris, “that’s his one good song.”
We drive on.
“I’ve got a bit of a dodgy stomach,” says Chris. “I think my stomach knows I’m back in Spain.” (For more on its previous visit, see page
“Oh no,” says Neil.
“It just knows,” Chris sighs.
Craig David’s “Fill Me In” comes on the radio.
“He’s everywhere, isn’t he?” says Chris.
“Oh, is this Craig David?” asks Neil.
“George Michael rates him.”
“George Michael said to me, he thinks Craig David has got what it takes to break America.”
“George Michael said to me, it must be funny being Bryan Adams, because he keeps writing hits every year and it doesn’t really amount to anything.”
The journey goes on and on. We only later discover the name of the town we’re heading towards, so we have no idea how much further we have to go, and nobody’s mobile phone seems to work here.
“We just don’t know where we’re going, do we?” sighs Chris.
“It’s a magical mystery tour,” Neil agrees.
Instead they admire the fine Spanish sunset.
“It’s amazing it keeps burning, isn’t it?” says Chris, referring to the sun.
Finally we reach Oviedo and pass a lit-up fountain in the town centre.
“I’ve got one in my garden now,” Chris says. “I haven’t seen it but I think it goes up about two feet in the air.”
Outside the hotel, the local media approach. Chris slips inside but Neil agrees to answer a question.
“Why did you call yourselves the Pet Shop Boys?” he is asked. He can’t quite believe it.
“Oh, that’s all old news,” he says, and steps inside.
They go for dinner in the hotel.
“So,” asks Chris, “what are we doing tomorrow?”
“We’re doing a show, Chris,” says Neil, patiently.
“But what are we going to do in the day?”
“Lie in bed all morning, have lunch, go for a wander.”
Chris is annoyed that the people at the next table are smoking over dinner.
“The Spanish don’t get killed by cigarettes, because of their diet,” Neil asserts.
“I just don’t like the smell – I don’t mind if it kills them,” Chris points out.
“I must say,” says Neil, “I think they’ve got a cheek suing the tobacco companies. They do have a health warning on them.”
“You know they’ve discovered the jelly around the tomato seeds is very good for you,” states Chris.
“According to Joan Collins,” says Neil, “sardines are very good for you. I thought you’d like to know that. She said to me, they’ve got a lot of DNA. I thought, doesn’t everything have a lot of DNA?”
After dinner we arrange to meet James and Dainton at La Orande Tabema, a cider bar near the cathedral. Outside the hotel, the same crowd still wait.
“Chris,” says Neil, “it’s the local media. ‘Why are you called the Pet Shop Boys?”‘
The woman bounds up to Chris. She asks her question: “Why are you called the Pet Shop Boys?”
“I can’t remember now,” Chris says. “It was a long time ago. I don’t remember.”
She has another: “Why did you decide to go to the Doctor Music?”
“It was something to do,” he says.
“What are your musical influences?”
“U2 and The Smiths.”
“I want to know if there’s anything you’d like to say…
“What do you think about people in Spain?”
“Sexy?” She doesn’t seem to believe this answer, though she is clearly delighted by it.
“Yes,” Chris says.
She has just one more thing she must check. “You are Chris, aren’t you?” she says.
“Yes,” he says.
At the cider bar, where the waiters pour cider behind their backs into glasses held near the ground to aerate it, Neil says: “It’s funny when you wake up in the morning and you don’t know where you are. I woke up this morning and I couldn’t think where I was. Then I thought, ‘Oh! I’m at home!’ My brain was totally dislocated from my surroundings.”
Chris realises that some grease from the underside of the bar he’s sitting at has got on his Helmut Lang jeans. “Oh no!” he exclaims. “I’ve only brought one pair ofjeans. James! What are we going to do now? We’ll have to cancel it.”
“Why don’t you just run them under the tap back at the hotel?” Neil suggests. “Denim’s a very tough fabric.”
“No,” says Chris, “it needs professional help.” He frets some more. “These were dirty denim,” he explains, “but that was designer dirt, not mistake dirt.”
Saturday, July 21. When he appears in the
Morning, Neil mentions that he has just been reading the diary of the Consular General in Leningrad in the 1930s. Walking to look round the cathedral the conversation wanders and he mentions that he applied to the University of Aberystwyth in Wales to study History and Archaeology. “I got too many crap ‘0’ levels,” he says.
After the cathedral has been surveyed, Chris arrives for a tapes lunch. They study the festival schedule.
“I like playing at 12.30,” says Neil. “You have the whole day to piss about. Go for walks. See some churches.”
The tortilla arrives. It has seafood in it; Chris is annoyed. All the food takes its time.
“They’re dragging this out, aren’t they?” Chris complains.
“Chris, it’s charmingly relaxed,” says Neil. “It’s how we eat in Spain. We talk a lot.”
“Yeah,” says Chris, “but it doesn’t work if you’re English and you don’t talk a lot.”
Neil mentions some of the things we’ve seen in the cathedral. “It used to be several years off purgatory just to see holy objects like those,” he points out. This comment leads to a debate about the exact nature of purgatory, which, says Neil, is a state, which always eventually leads to heaven.
“Hell is the absence of God,” he says. “Hell is the absence of love.”
“It’s be crap if it did happen,” says Chris, thinking of hell. “It’d be terrible.”
In the early evening, Neil decides to catch a taxi up the hill above town to see the famous Austrian churches, the oldest of which – the Santa Maria Del Naranco – was converted into a church towards the end of the ninth century. The taxi stops at the one flirtiest up the hill, the San Miguel De Lillo. “Which you can’t get into,” Neil realises, “because it’s mysteriously shut. That’s the curse of Neil Tennant.” He wanders down to the lower church. “So,” he says, “you probably haven’t read the Incredible String Band story in Major – there’s this bit where they used to hang out with Prince Margaret.”
When, Literal/y inquires, did he last play a record by the noted hippie folk group Incredible String Band?
“Well,” he says, “by sheer coincidence I played one on Wednesday.” And he talks about Nick Drake, and about how his friend, the photographer Eric Watson, had owned a copy of Bryter Later in the Seventies and how much they used to listen to it.
As we wait for the tour of the church’s interior to begin, he reflects that the Pet Shop Boys have played about seventy concerts in the last year. “You get into the rhythm,” he says. “Even Chris Lowe himself has literally suggested writing songs that go down well live, along the lines of ‘We Will Rock You’ or ‘We Are The Champions’ by Queen.”
Deciding to walk back to town, a likely path is picked. Neil mentions how “Was It Worth It?” ended up being played at some of these more recent concerts alter a Spanish duo sent them a demo CD on which they strummed the song on guitar. “It was gorgeous,” he says. “It was beautifully.” Though Neil’s new acoustic version has a different rhythm it was inspired by theirs, and incorporates a gap they had worked into the song.
Eventually we realise that the path doesn’t go directly to town, and after much marching up and down hills and roads in the heat we are still some way from the hotel~ We stop in a bar, have some drinks and call a taxi instead Back at the hotel, Chris calls to confer about how useless the new Morcheeba single is.
At dinner, the food again takes ages to arrive.
“I don’t like it when you’re through your first bottle of wine before you’ve eaten anything,” Chris says.
“Do you want some more wine?” the waiter asks.
“Of course he does,” Neil says. “We’re rock’n’rollers,” says Chris. “I’m going on pissed,” Neil points out. Chris text messages James, who is at the festival site, to ask how chilly it is there. “BRING CARDIF,” James replies.
“That’s not only camp,” says Neil, “that’s unbelievably camp.”
When they arrive at the venue, they decide to go over to the stage.
“Let’s go and see Beck,” says Neil.
“Posh and Beck,” says Chris. Chris stands at the mixing desk. During the first song he announces that Beck is useless and he wants to find the dance tent, but after a few more he has changed his mind. “It’s already better than us,” he says. He is puzzled, however, by the free-form noise and theatre experiment, which finishes the show and rather dampens the otherwise keen Spanish fans’ enthusiasm. “Talk about ending on a down note,” Chris says. “Or maybe he’s being very kind to us.”
Back in the dressing room he says to Neil -who watched some of it from the side of the stage – “Beck was good, wasn’t he? Worryingly good. I’m worried they won’t like us.”
“They will,” Neil insists.
“Why do you think that?” says Chris.
“Because, Chris,” Neil explains, “we have tunes.”
“Well, so did he,” says Chris.
“Not really,” says Neil.
A Spanish promoter they worked with in the winter pops into the dressing room. “Oh, we tour all the time now,” Neil tells him. “We’ll be back next year.”
Some distractingly horrible Spanish heavy metal music is coming through the window from another stage. Studying the schedule we decide it may be a band called Gluecifer.
“We always have a good reaction in Spain,” says Chris. “I don’t know what you’re panicking about.”
“I’m not panicking,” Neil points out, indignantly.
They go through the set list. They decide to play everything on their long set list apart from “Opportunities”. (These include all the songs they played at Glastonbury – see page 13 – apart from “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, as well as “Domino Dancing”, “Being Boring” and, after this afternoon’s conversation, “Was It Worth It?”)
They come on to a version of “Cafe Del Mar” by Energy 52, which Chris found on a Euphoria Chill CD. For the last show of the tour, the event itself is a little bit of an anticlimax. Everything goes fine, but until close to the end, the audience is only modestly enthusiastic.
The keenest reaction comes from two people on the right side of the stage, dancing crazily, singing along, and looking with delight at each other when each new song starts. These are Beck and his bass player (who, coincidentally, Neil met and spoke with when he played with Air in London some time back). At the end Neil says “we love you” three times to the audience and the show is over.
“Do you know what, I’m quite glad it’s all over,’ Chris says, back in the dressing room. “I was thinking I wanted it to carry on, but now I’m glad.”
The Bluestones come backstage for a chat. Neil tells them about how the computer hard drive crashed four times during their Hungarian concert. “We’ve been on the road for a year,” says Chris. “No wonder it feels like a long time -it was.”
They had planned to wait for the crew to pack up and to have an end-of-tour party backstage, but by 2.30 in the morning they decide they’re too exhausted. And instead of facing the four hour drive again tomorrow, they fly back home from the local airport, via Madrid, to recuperate and prepare for their summer holidays.
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd 2000: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 2000 Issue 23