Pandemonium Live

Pandemonium Live

Pandemonium Live

starring The Pet Shop Boys

Astralwerks

It’s time to remix the remixes — the Pet Shop Boys are back on tour! Or they were last Christmas, and they left this present under the tree — it’s the “Pandemonium” concert tour on DVD with an accompanying CD of the soundtrack. While the music largely consists of the big hits we’ve been dancing to since Night Flight first introduced Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe to the savages in the New World, this show is more entertaining than the “Performance” tour. The artistic concept sounds cheap and simple and fun, but has more technical challenges than you could imagine. They create an 8-bit world featuring a wall of cardboard boxes used as a projection screen, and with clever and careful video projection, each box seems an isolated pixel in their Mario world of primary colors. Dancers wear boxes on their heads and monochrome latex body suits, and millions of dollars in video work carefully removes any trace of High Definition. If you listen to the director’s track, you discover there’s even a storyline: two of the dancers are in love, and they get split up and travel the world to meet again. I only discovered this accidentally, as Story is subsumed by Spectacle and this show is all about the beat, the mix, and Chris Lowe’s mirrored jacket. Around intermission time the wall comes down (intentionally) and the show continues in the ruins of the boxes. By the encore, the boxes float up into the fly loft and hang with studied indifference. These boxes may be cardboard, but it’s reinforced fireproof Euro-approved cardboard and they have to be moved and set up each night.

There’s a CD along with this disc — the mixes are a bit different, but the set is identical. We get very few new songs (“Pandemonium,” “Building a Wall”) but the old favorites sound good on this super-cool stage. “Heart” slides into “More Than a Dream” and “Pandemonium” interlaces with “Can You Forgive Her?” so nicely you’ll think “Well, THAT’S not a new number.” “New York City Boy” and “Always On my Mind” and “Suburbia” sound fresh, and the Village People’s anthem of gay Manifest Destiny, “Go West,” is toned down and hetero enough that even MTV might air it.

Extras on this disc include a number of other live performance clips, including “It Doesn’t Often Snow on Christmas” with its Elton John feel, and the 2009 BRIT Awards is a “Pet Shop Boys on 45” extravaganza. The audio commentary ranges from mundane talk of fitting costumes to some interesting material about how the show was conceived and executed. More than once Tennant and Lowe comment that they’ve never seen their own show from the audience perspective, and they seem continually surprised by the look of their work. It’s either studied indifference or a complete and utter faith in their production crew.

While this is a fan “must have” collection, it’s also a good overview of these gay greybeards of dance music. Lady Gaga even shows up in the BRIT Award number, but she’s just not that noticeable when surrounded by the costumes of the Pet Shop Boys road show. And unlike most modern DVDs filled with trailers and warnings you can’t fast forward through, there’s just one short FBI threat at the beginning of this disc, and then you can hit the play button get right into what you paid to see. Take THAT, Avatar Blue Ray!

Pet Shop Boys: www.petshopboys.co.uk

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