Gig review: Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena. Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena. Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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The pointed hats may now be consigned to the archives but it really wouldn’t be a Pet Shop Boys’ concert without some form of elaborate and amusing headgear.

And so it proves to be on the opening night of the latest leg of their Super world tour, as the giant discs on either side of the First Direct Arena stage swivel round to reveal singer Neil Tennant wearing a large laurel wreath while keyboard player Chris Lowe’s face is concealed by a circular silver helmet.

Behind them patterns of dots dance on a huge screen to the shuddering techno of Inner Sanctum.

The song is one of four from their recent, dance-heavy album Super that are woven into their current set list; the pick however is The Pop Kids with its insistent chorus and knowing references to London in the early 90s.

Wisely they also slip in 80s gems Opportunities and In The Night; during the latter two drummers and an auxiliary keyboard player are revealed. She switches to electric violin for Love Is a Bourgeois Construct, whose melodic hook is borrowed from Henry Purcell via Michael Nyman’s soundtrack for The Draughtsman’s Contract.

The disco-tastic New York City Boy lifts the tempo before Se A Vida E (That’s The Way Life Is) spreads a ray of Latin sunshine.

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena. Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena. Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

The 1986 hit Love Comes Quickly is one of several older numbers given a musical re-jig – here it’s all moody and down tempo.

Tennant role plays in a black hat and coat for The Dictator Decides; during Inside a Dream giant psychedelic images of his face are projected onto a screen.

By West End Girls he’s changed into a shiny silver bomber jacket and the celebratory mood continues with the jaunty Winner, from their 2012 album Elysium.

For Home and Dry Tennant and the three backing musicians sing together at the front of the stage as images of waves roll behind them.

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena. Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena. Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

The final part of the set is pure entertainment, with dazzling laser beams, as The Sodom and Gomorrah Show segues into It’s A Sin and Left To My Own Devices. A euphoric audience takes over the chorus of Go West and the first song in the encore, Domino Dancing.

Giant multi-coloured balloons appear and the band hide behind matching helmets. It’s all very daft, very knowing and quintessentially Pet Shop Boys.

“Leeds you are brilliant,” Tennant happily declares, adding: “It’s taken us 32 years to get here.”

As they close with another crowd-pleaser, Always On My Mind and a reprise of The Pop Kids, you can’t help hoping they make a rather swifter return visit.

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Pet Shop Boys at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

J P Cooper at Leeds University. Picture: Louis Hobbs

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