It was a warm Saturday night in downtown Jakarta – the people were celebrating the country’s independence by day and I was celebrating Pet Shop Boys’ first ever concert in Indonesia.
The concert was not my first however, as I went to their concert twice in 2009 during their Pandemonium tour. The Pandemonium concert was brilliant – with spectacular set, awesome video backdrop, and terrific dancers/backing singers. I wrote a compilation of mini blogs of their Dour performance here. You can also watch the Pandemonium live from O2 stadium DVD here.
The concert started at 8pm sharp. The big screen in front of the crowd started to play the video of “Axis”, their first single from Electric — their latest album which is also the title of their current tour. Axis was used to open both the album and the tour, and what a kick-ass opener. Listening to “Axis” (and watching the video) was like taking a speed train (or maybe even a space ship) through a long tunnel of lights and to the next phase of life. It was also like breaking out from all of the binding rules (of the previous record label, perhaps?) to a new domain which gave them more freedom to explore their artistic approaches.
Slowly the silhouettes of the UK duo emerged at the end of the tunnel, walking slowly to the stage with their distinctive spiky costumes made from 2,000 plastic straws. Behind the screen Chris was taking his position behind his “working desk”, a metal keyboard podium with a carving pattern that resembles an electronic circuit. Neil stood behind the microphone in the middle of the stage and they both wore the same pointy hats from the 2012 Olympics’ closing ceremony.
The screen was still unfurled when the next song started. It was “One More Chance”, a classic Pet Shop Boys’ song from the early Bobby O years. The classic dance track was nicely fused into another high-energy number from 2011, ” Face Like That”. This particular track was an anomaly from “Elysium”, their last album with Parlophone that mostly contained very pop songs and even ballads that I must say rather disappointing. But “Face Like That” was an exception. It was very upbeat and energetic, basically it just took you off from your feet and dance. And every time I walk with this song in my ears, I felt like the coolest person in town.
The screen started to display ballet dancers with the foreground of scientific formulas. Yes, it was “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)”. It was a perfect song to play in the current midst of the burgeoning geek culture. As the music started, some crew took position on the bottom left and right corners – yes, the sheer screen that had been covering them was about to be opened.
And it was true – the screen was dropped down as the drumbeat was played. The crowd could now see the faces of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, performing with a spectacular stage set – lights, models, guestlists.. oh wait, that was from Absolutely Fabulous. 😛
But yes the set was fabulous, darling. It was spectacular. With lightings and lasers and video arts. It was not a gig – it was an art performance. It was also done like a theatre play, with three acts. Acts? yes, it was like a play. The jaw-dropping set was designed Es Devlin, who had been working with the boys in their previous Fundamental and Pandemonium tours (hence the similar set). And it was, electrifying!
For the music production, Pet Shop Boys is working with Stuart Price for their latest album. I was not very familiar with the name until I realised he was the DJ who once used French names such as Jacques Lu Cont and Les Rhythmes Digitales. After listening to the whole Electric album, I must say I was very much impressed by the work of this young producer (he is merely 35!) Stuart gave Pet Shop Boys a fresher twist to their music while still preserving their core elements.
Back to the first act — it was cooled down by their final single with Parlophone, “Memory of the Future”, before finally back to the highly upbeat Fugitive/Integral medley from 2006. “Integral” was from the album ‘Fundamental’, while “Fugitive” appeared in its bonus disc ‘Fundamentalism’.
The second act was opened with my all-time favourite “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing”. Whoaaaaaaaaa… My heart started missing a beat. I used to dance around the house every time the video was played on MTV. This song never failed to make me hysterically happy, and I was shouting out loud to the lyrics when Neil and Chris started to came to the stage with their super-awesome metal minotaur masks and played the 7″ version of the song.
why today I feel like dancing
singing like lovers sing
when I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing?
The dancers with the buffalo skulls on their heads kept dancing as Neil and Chris walked back stage to change their costumes while the music slowly was slowly shifting to the intro of “Suburbia”.
While “I wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing” was like unleashing your animal side (in a happy way), the intro of “Suburbia” was a perfect song to bridge the two with the sound of barking dogs. The boys were back with no masks and Neil looked as gorgeous as ever. The crowd sang along to the chorus, and it was so surreal.
“I’m Not Scared” was next and the whole atmosphere became even more surreal as the lights were out and colourful lasers were beaming from the stage. The lasers were like a rain of lights – I remember that I stretched out my hand to the lasers and I felt like touching drops of a colourful rain. Neil and Chris was nicely lit from the back, creating silhouettes of the two.
While “Suburbia” was filled with the sound of barking dogs, “I’m Not Scared” had a line of Oh, take these dogs away from me, before they, they bite.
But my favourite part of the lyric was its first two lines –
Your life’s a mystery, mine is an open book.
If I could read your mind, I think I’d take a look.
And of course that part – “I don’t care baby, I’m not scared“.
The song was originally written by Neil and Chris for Eighth Wonder, an 80s band fronted by Patsy Kensit (ex-wife of Liam Gallagher), but they released it on their own album “Introspective” in 1988. Anyway, in the album cover there was a photo of Neil and Chris holding a puppy. I am never really sure whether Neil or Chris were scared of the puppy, but I must say they didn’t look very comfortable. Neither did the puppy.
The next song was the third single from their latest Electric album – “Fluorescent”. Speaking of fluorescent, the white balance I used in my photos was “fluorescent” :-p
Neil and Chris were now wearing fluorescent orange costumes, which reminded me of their “Can You Forgive Her?” (because of the orange colour) stepping into Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” video. The dancers even wore conical hats, although without the white stripes..
Two last songs of the second act — “West End Girls”, with a very nice arrangement that had the feel of a more ‘now’, instead of the 1980s. And “Somewhere” – omg I felt like I was at the Savoy, in the middle of the “Somewhere” concert, and everything from the 1997 set — the sofa, the screens, Sylvia Mason-James — they were all flashing back in front of me. It was indeed another nice surprise for their die-hard fans.
The third set was opened by the very catchy “Leaving” from last year’s Elysium. Neil and Chris were wearing hats that looked like disco balls – Neil’s was in the shape of a bowler hat while Chris’s was basically.. a disco ball. And an array of lights were projected onto the hats, creating scattering reflections of light streams. It was so cleverly done, and for me that what made Pet Shop Boys’ performances brilliantly aesthetic. And as I had told you earlier, it was not (just) a music concert, it was a work of art. A masterpiece.
Neil briefly described the next song as a song about the weekend. It had a similar intro with “Love Comes Quickly” and I quickly hummed,
Sooner or later, this happens to everyone, to everyone..
It was not. It was “Thursday”, their upcoming single from Electric and it featured a rap by Example, a British rapper whose original name was Elliot Gleave – abbreviated as E.G., hence the stage name.
With a video of Example singing with video mapping in the background, it was definitely a single to look forward to.
After all, “come on, why not?” — ooh I got butterflies in my stomach every time I heard Neil saying that! How could anyone resist an offer from the gentleman himself?
At the beginning of the song, dancers with orange pom heads came onto the stage while some other crew pushed two big boxes with electronic circuit carvings on their sides to the left part of the stage, to serve as dance platforms.
As the song ended, the boxes were pushed to the centre of the stage, and images of headless male bodies were projected onto the screen that covered the boxes, making them looked like two guys dancing on the beds. And here’s the best part – Neil and Chris was standing behind the screen and they stuck out their heads, so now they looked like they were dancing and jumping about as if they were in their teenage years.
It was “Love, Etc” from the 2011 Yes album and unfortunately, the only track from that album performed that night. And unfortunately the awesome animation by Han Hoogerbrugge was not featured. Nevertheless it was another brilliant concept perfectly delivered by the boys.
The last part of the second act turned the whole stage into an electronic circuit board. I have always wanted to be an electrical engineer, and ever since I saw Mike Cosford’s cover design for Erasure’s “I Say I Say I Say”, I thought that electronic circuits had the best pattern design.
I felt so immersed by the circuit pattern and as the next song title implied: “I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)”. It was a part of the medley with their 1987 rather-controversial hit “Rent”. I found it pretty funny to mix the two titles into ‘I Get Excited If You Pay My Rent’ 😀
My night was complete when they played their 2003 single “Miracles”. Miracles do happen when they’re around. And meeting them earlier that night was also one of those finest miracles I had ever had. The last song was It’s A Sin, and I used to worship this song mostly because of the lyrics.
When I look back upon my life
It’s always with the sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
And still remembered that I once played this track with Summer in Berlin at a small outdoor gig in Depok — and it was five years ago already.
After a short pause, fluffy things emerged from backstage, jumping about to the music — yes, it was “Domino Dancing”!
The boys returned to the stage with the fluorescent orange costumes but this time with some kind of Turkish fezzes – which reminded me of their Absolutely Fabulous costumes.
The music received quite a big change. You still recognised the basic chords that it was still Domino Dancing, but the music was given a very fresh, modern twist – it was now Domino Dancing 2.0.
It was followed by another classic hit “Always On My Mind”. The music was banging and the blinding neon lights were flashing from behind. The song wrapped up with a grand ending, with smashing chords and puff! orange confetti were sprayed onto the audience. It was a great finish, a spectacular finale.
But of course if you had watched their previous Electric concerts on the internet you would have known that it was not really the end. The boys and the dancers were soon back on stage to play their remake of Village People’s “Go West”.
The crowd were singing the choir’s part of “Together!” and “Go Weeeeesstt” as Neil sang the rest of the lyrics.
And just like their other concerts from this tour, it was closed with their second single from Electric, the highly energetic “Vocal”. Yes, they had turned the place into a dance floor. Everybody was so ecstatic and I felt transcended into an electrifying atmosphere.
It was all like a dream to me. After the performance ended, I was still trembling out of excitement. And these lines from Vocal were buzzing in my head for days to come..
This is my kind of music, they play it all night long
Pet Shop Boys Electric Tour
Jakarta Convention Centre
One More Chance/Face Like That
Opportunities (Let’s Make A Lot of Money)
Memory Of The Future
(Sample of “The Rite of Spring”)
I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing
I’m Not Scared
West End Girls
I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)/Rent
It’s A Sin
Always On My Mind