Pet Shop Boys
Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando, FL • 10-18-06
Carl F Gauze
Are the Pet Shop Boys simply soulless sanitized disco, or an over-the-top theatrical extravaganza? You can argue both sides of that chestnut, but their recent show at Orlando Hard Rock Café had enough glitz, glamour, and gut thumping bass to satisfy the laidback and enthusiastic crowd. As the local glitter and mesh shirt set wandered in, a large box with a section view of the human brain dominated the stage. Like Devo, one never knows what Mr. Lowe and Mr. Tennant might wear on stage, so some preshow roadie maneuvers lead to enthusiastic applause before the show even began. The brain image was merely a drape which fell under the grip of the Tyvek-clad stage hands reveling larger-than-life negative space cutouts of a baseball-capped Lowe and the tails-and-top-hatted Tenant. Dancers and backup singers spewed forth, followed by the PS boys at last.
The opening number was the creepy “Psychological” from their new album, I’m with Stupid, which sounded more like a horror show mood setter than a dance number. The crowd patiently endured it, wondering if that was the tone of the evening, but then the bass kicked in, the landing lights swiveled into action, and they launched into “Suburbia”, complete with authentic chavs street fighting like the Jets and the Sharks. While there were a half-dozen songs from the new album, the principal material was the big hits, ranging from “West End Girls” to “Always on my Mind” to “So Hard”. Each song had a well-choreographed dance number, and each song brought new waves of enthusiastic audience response.
Longtime backing singer Sylvia Mason James brought nearly as much applause as Lowe and Tennant. I was very impressed with the dancing, with accurate and enthusiastic breaking, ballet and jazz dancing never stopping. Charmingly, there was a 20 minute “interval” followed by another solid hour of music, and a well-planned encore complete with cast and crew introductions.
If there’s a complaint, the sound at Hard Rock was quite distorted, with particularly annoying roughness on the lower notes. I don’t get to the Hard Rock enough to know if that’s endemic, but a few db less volume and a few db more dynamic range would have put a real gloss on this otherwise outstanding show.