Literally 41

New york
 April 26, 2014. Tonight, the Pet Shop Boys play at Terminal 5 on the west side of Manhattan. This morning they left Atlantic City, where they played the previous night, and travelled by car — stopping on the way to visit Angelo Badalamenti at his home in New Jersey to discuss the songs he is arranging for their Royal Albert Hall Proms performance in July.
At the venue, after a brief soundcheck, a meet ’n’ greet
is scheduled where Neil and Chris will speak with, and sign something for, those fans who have arranged
(and paid) for them to do so. Neil and Chris stand to one side of the still—empty Terminal 5 ?oor, about
halfway back from the stage, and people are let in by security in ones and twos and fours.

Literally, naturally, watches and listens. Here are some random snapshots, as people ?le through — male

meet ’n’ greeters are denoted by “M”, female by “F”:

M: [with great enthusiasm] l’ve had a wonderful time!

Neil: We’ve had quite a good time.

F apologises for Neil and Chris having to do this.

Chris: No, we like this bit. It’s the show we don’t like.

F: Are you ?fying tonight, or tomorrow?

Chris: That’s none of your business, is it?

F: Why don’t you sing on the ‘Thursday’ song?

Chris: Because I’m wearing a mirrorball at the time — it’d be ridiculous.

Neil: [talking about the show in Atlantic City

last night, and how the gauze messed up during “Rent”] That’s the ?rst time it’s gone wrong since
the beginning of the tour. And then I nearly got the giggles. That’s never happened to me before.
M: Did you go to the casino?

Neil: No.

Chris: We don’t gamble.

Neil: You shouldn’t gamble — it’s a losers’ game… Enjoy the show tonight. It’s going to be a
proper rock ’n’ roll gig tonight.

Neil photographs a fan all dressed in orange who says he has come from Fort Jefferson in Long

Chris: We’ve travelled a lot further than that.

M: Of course. As musicians you travel all over the world.

M: Only one wish.

Chris: It’s not going to be granted.

M: A photo!

Neil signs his T-shirt instead.

F [with wife]: I proposed to her in front of you guys. [asks them to sign a photo of their wedding
at Rockefeller Center]

Neil: Should I write ‘congratulations’ on that? Assuming you can read my handwriting.

Chris: I won’t write over your face.

F: Football or rugby?

Chris: Football.

Neil: Neither.

Neil: [inspecting fan is t—shirt] Is that David Bowie?

M: Yes.

Neil: Is he coming tonight? If he comes we could do “l-lallo Spaceboy”.

Chris: That’s what we should have done at Coachella.

Neil: He wouldn’t have minded doing it.

M: [explains he is ?om Poland] When I was 16, I was learning to dance to your music.

Neil: I actually went to Poland on holiday a couple of years ago.

Neil: 60’s the new 30. We’re playing the Exit festival on my birthday.

Neil: We used to go to Balthazar, down in Soho. It’s probably social Siberia by now.

M: I love the play, Closer to Heaven.

Neil: Very, very underrated. It was going to come to America. Sandra Bernhard was going to do the
Frances Barber part. We had a meeting with her and everything.

Chris: [refusing to sign the “Leaving” twelve- inch single with Neil s face on the front cover]
You’ve got the wrong one. I’ll sign it on the back.

M: [says he is going to get into the queue for the show now]

Chris: I would go back home and have a lie down if I were you.

Neil: Have a cup of tea. And something to eat. A ham sandwich comes to mind.

M: [says he has been a fan since the beginning of the Eighties]

Neil: [?rmly] Mid-eighties.

M: [continues by saying that he recently looked at their old videos and that they look like little boys]

Neil: [dryly] It was a long time ago.

Chris: I know you’re not meaning to be insulting…

F: Do you know how long I’ve waited for this. My mum bought these tickets for me.
Neil: What a nice present.

F: “Inside a dream” is my favourite song.

Neil: Good choice.

F: [asks whether they might do some remixes of it]

Neil: Funnily enough, we had some done for Coachella, and we were going to put them on the
World Wide Web. Glad you reminded us. We’d forgotten about them.

Two female fans are particularly glittery.

Chris: I love a bit of glitter.

Neil: So do I.

Neil explains to a fan the disastrous tale of their announced then cancelled concert at the
Hollywood Bowl some years ago, explaining the role their American agent played in the debacle.
Neil: Our former agent… Consequently the Hollywood Bowl isn’t talking to us. We’re banned
from the Hollywood Bowl. The fan asks about the upcoming Proms concert.

Neil: Oh, that’s not going to be cancelled. The Hollywood Bowl is one of the only things we’ve
ever cancelled. Apart from our ?rst tour.

M: Ijust want to say “hi”. Nothing to sign.

Chris and Neil sign the laminated pass that gives access to the meet ’n’ greet anyway.

M: [reminiscing about an encounter with Neil at an earlier concert] I said, “Neil, you’re a very
sexy man,” and you ?ashed your Calvin Kleins at me.

Neil: I probably did. It was 20 years ago. I was only 40.

M: [asks if they will perform with Sylvia Mason- James again]

Neil: Sylvia? Oh, I imagine so, one day. We haven’t been doing that kind of show.

Two female fans.

F: Do we get hugs?

They get hugs.

Neil talks to them about North Carolina. “North Carolina is a very nice place. I’m thinking of
going to live there.”

Neil: [lying] Tonight I’m going to walk on for anal encore and sing “Edelweiss”.
Chris: And we’ll all burst into tears.

M: I want to say something witty and profound, and it’s not going to happen.

Neil: “Good evening” is enough.

M: I have a few questions. I would like to hear rare songs.

Neil: It’s a difficult one.

M: As a fan, you have many good rare songs.

Neil: We try to do a mixture. We do a song like “Fugitive” on this tour.

Chris: That’s the ?rst question — how many more?

Neil: [politely] I think that’s the last question.

Female fan introduces herself as from Jamaica.

Neil: You heard the Pet Shop Boys in Jamaica?

F: Yeah.

Neil: We’ve been to Jamaica on holiday. 1 used to go there every year at one time. For some reason
I stopped.

F: [reminiscing about a previous encounter] You gave me your guitar pick.

Neil: No guitars in this show.

She requests that they play “Before” when they next tour.

Chris: Oh, I love “Before”.

Neil: We probably will. Good idea.

M: [talking about Coachella] I heard it was really dusty for you.

Neil: It was dusty for everyone. And the sand blows in the gear. But we survived.

F: Oh my god, I’m going to freak out.

Neil: [?rmly] No, you mustn’t do that.

F: Thank you for making my teen years.

Talking to two male fans about Dubai:

Neil: Will we like Dubai? I don’t know what to expect, other than a lot of tall buildings.

M: The tallest building in the world is there.

Chris: I won’t be going up there.

[In fact when they go to Dubai, they both go up the Burj Khali a.]

A male fan says that they should play “I want a lover”.

Chris: [dubious] Is that one of our best?

Neil suggests that perhaps they could get Stuart Price to do something with it, though it doesn’t
sound much like a ?rm plan.

A male fan asks Neil whether it had been a good idea to go back to the United Kingdom after his
?rst meeting with Bobby ‘O’.

Neil: I was only here for a few days.

M: I understood you wanted to stay here.

Neil: No, I’m too English. I like visiting.

A male fan correctly identi?es the make of Neil’s glasses.

Neil: Are you a designer?

M: No, I’m a label whore.

M: [presenting Neil and Chris with a poster which includes on it the title of every single Pet
Shop Boys song] The bad news is, I’m not leaving without a picture.

Neil and Chris: [instantly, in union] Yes, you are.

Neil: [studying the poster] Is this every song? It doesn’t look that many, does it?

Chris: We’re not very proli?c, are we?

Some gifts are presented from a Japanese fan club.

Chris: [gratefully] You know, these are the ?rst gifts we’ve had. We only do this for the gifts.

After the meet ’n’ greet, Neil eats in catering. Chris retires to the room with the accurate sign
outside it: Chris’s Nap Room. Back in the main dressing room, Neil wonders how to make the
room look less bright and unwelcoming. “Let’s see how we do mood lighting,” he says,
and turns off the main light switch. Much better. “There we are — mood lighting.”

He lies down on the sofa and talks some more about Coachella for a while. “I was the second
oldest person on stage there, the ?rst being Bryan Ferry,” he says, and explains how much posher the whole event was than he expected. “It’s actually on a polo ground. I was disappointed it
wasn’t really in the desert.” The dancers can be heard in the corridor outside. “The dancers have
taken up knitting,” Neil notes. “They sit in their dressing room manically knitting.”
He naps for a while, then sits upright.

“It’s contact lens time,” he declares.

“Good evening, New York! We’re back — so soon!” announces Neil between “Opportunities” and “Love is a bourgeois construct”, early in the show. As predicted, the venue is rammed with
people, and the atmosphere is celebratory. Unlike the previous night, smoke hangs in the air and the lasers ?ll the tight space above the audience thrillingly. (The full set-list: “Axis”, “One more chance /A face like that”, “Opportunities (let’s make lots of money)”, “Love is a bourgeois construct”, “Fugitive”, “Integral”, “I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing”, “Suburbia”, “I’m not scared”, “Fluorescent”, “West End

Girls”, “Somewhere”, “Leaving”, “Thursday”, “Love etc.”, “I get excited (you get excited
too)”, “Rent”, “Miracles”, “It’s a sin”, “Domino dancing”, “Always on my mind”, “Go west” and “Vocal”.)

“Well,” says Neil, changing backstage, with trademark understatement, “It wasn’t a disaster.” Although he then adds, directing the thought to tour manager Andy Crookston, who is busy opening the Champagne, “God, it’s a small stage.” “It’s the width that’s the thing,” says Andy. “It’s about ?ve steps across, to be honest,” says Neil.

Chris drinks a vodka, Neil has Champagne, and also some chocolate.

Pete Gleadall comes in.

“See?” he says. “Better microphone, much better sound.”

“Why have we waited until this show?” Chris asks.

Generally the mood is one of satisfaction, both about tonight and this whole short American

“It’s been good,” says Neil. “All the way through last night this guy was going ‘Pet Shop Boys, you fucking rock!’ It was great. I was singing the whole show at him.” “They’re so strange, those casino gigs,” says


“It was so cold,” Neil agrees. “I thought that I was going to get pnemnonia. And the air- conditioning takes away all the smoke, so you can’t see the lasers.” There is a knock on the door, and in comes an
old friend, Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche; they begin to catch up on news since they last met.

“You still haven’t done our song,” says Neil. “We remixed it. We were going through the Fleetwood Mac thing.” “The Tango In The Night thing,” agrees Sondre. “We’ve come through that,” says Neil.

They discuss when they last saw Sondre play, which, they conclude, was in Naples.

“That was one of our favourite shows ever,” says Neil. “It was so great. A jewel of a theatre —
just you and a guitar. Like, I always think I prefer Elton just with a piano. And you made all these
Italian jokes.”

“I said ‘pronto’ a lot,” demurs Sondre.

“Coming out, we were worried we were going to get mugged,” says Neil. Then they talk more about the song the Pet Shop Boys gave Sondre. “Now I’ve got used to your vocals on it,”
Sondre says, to Neil.

“Yeah, that’s what you said eight years ago,” says Neil. “I’m meant to be the backing vocals. I’m meant to be Lindsay Buckingham — you’re Stevie Nicks.”

Someone asks Neil whether he and Chris saw Kraftwerk at Moogfest.

“No,” he replies, “but they watched us. How nerve-wracking is that?”

“Do you know those guys?” asks Sondre.

“No,” says Neil, as though the notion is too improbable to entertain. “Does anyone?”

This quick a?ershow drink turns into quite a party, a dozen or so friends drinking until well past
midnight. At one point Neil says, “It has always bugged me that we weren’t more successful in
America — we could do a show in Las Vegas‘. It’d be great.” At another he announces, “I always
say, if I was a young musician, it’s a great time to reinvent rock — EDM is so rubbish.” When
he reminisces about a trip to New York in the mid—Eighties, Chris interjects “Is that when you interviewed Marilyn?” (It was.) Eventually the party begins to break up. Though not everyone is
quite convinced that the night is yet over.

“What I need,” says Neil, “is a hot dog. I know it sounds terrible. Maybe a little bit of mustard. Of
course, I don’t eat the bun.”