❉ Costume changes? Check. Incredible staging and light show? Present. A mixture of songs old and new? Yes.
1980s heroes, self-proclaimed lovers of all things poptastic, and gay icons Pet Shop Boys graced the stage last night as the headline and closing act for Brighton Pride 2017.
With the day’s simultaneous stance on looking to the past and the future, they felt in many ways the perfect act to choose as the main act. By the time it was nearing 9pm and threatening storm clouds had thankfully failed to break, the crowd was pretty packed, the scent of Carling was in the air, and people were impatient for them to start.
In the end, their set lasted for 90 minutes, had what could easily be counted as three finales (probably one too many, given the sighs I heard when they returned for one final song), and gave their all.
Costume changes? Check. Incredible staging and light show? Present. A mixture of songs old and new? Yes.
The atmosphere was undoubtedly positive across most of the set, though predictably it was for the more well-known songs that the crowd gave the most enthusiastic reception.
This was never an issue as such, but some of the song choices were interesting to say the least, with many of the newer tracks tending to be heavier, moodier affairs. Tellingly, it was the upbeat pop songs like Love Is A Bourgeois Construct which got the crowd cheering when it came to album-only or lesser known stuff, and I feel that perhaps the audience was maybe misjudged a little. Whilst there were unquestionably many around who were Pet Shop Boys fans and sang along to the likes of The Pop Kids, I more often than not heard murmurings of “I don’t know this one” which suggests that perhaps a more greatest hits or upbeat package may have been wise.
That said, I suspect The Sodom and Gomorrah Show (surely their greatest single that never was bar Shameless?) won many fans tonight, even if the wait to familiar tunes like Love Etc. and Go West felt long.
This feels negative though, and that is both unfair and inaccurate to the spirit of the evening and the cheering across the entire set. From West End Girls to fan favourites such as In The Night (best known to many as the theme tune to The Clothes Show, and a genuinely lovely surprise), dancing was had, people sang along, and the applause was loud. Yes, a couple more hits wouldn’t have gone amiss, and yes three finales was far too many, but appropriately for the night and the day’s summer of love hashtag, there was a lot of warmth in Preston Park.
For a duo who wryly sung a few years ago “you’ve been around but you don’t look too rough, and I still quite like some of your early stuff”, there was scant evidence the goodwill people have for them is on the wane. A captivating stage presence matched with a truly electrifying lighting and video show was matched by an audience who adored them every bit as much as Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were clearly enjoying themselves.
Aptly, the entire set was Pet Shop Boys left to their own devices. Better still, it proved to be a popular and energetic finish to Brighton Pride 2017, and when you’ve hundreds of people singing gay anthems in public with joy in tandem with a pop duo at the top of their game, there is something quite beautiful about that. As Pet Shop Boys so rightly sang, you don’t have to be beautiful, but it helps.
❉ Nick Mellish lives in the South of England. He reviews a lot of Doctor Who nonsense for various fanzines and websites, writes children’s fiction, and once lost a game of Countdown on national television.