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Pet Shop Boys - Henley Festival, Henley, Oxfordshire, 6/7/2017

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 12 / 8 / 2017

Pet Shop Boys - Henley Festival, Henley, Oxfordshire, 6/7/2017


Nick Dent-Robinson asserts that 1980's icons Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have as the Pet Shop Boys, 'constantly pushed the boundaries' since their inception. He enjoys two dynamic sets of synth pop at the prestigious Henley Festival.

As a top record producer recently commented to me, “You know, we really should treasure the Pet Shop Boys, because in an age of mediocrity when Ed Sheeran can score 16 songs in the top 20, something is seriously amiss. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe still revel in their intelligent musical and visual flights of fancy. They are true originals....and we desperately need more of those.” It is true that from being 1980s synthpop icons to techno dance masters and sonic experimentalists, the duo have constantly pushed the boundaries, becoming as much art project as band. So it was unsurprising to see them enter the stage at the ultra-formal Henley Festival wearing what looked like metallic lampshades. Henley is an apt setting for the dapper pair to open with their 1980s satirical anthem, 'Opportunities' with its tongue-in-cheek refrain of “Let's make lots of money”-- which, ironic or not, drove the Henley audience wild! The song, with its mix of dry wit, poetry and 1980s techno, somehow underscores Pet Shop Boys' very best work. The first set featured some newer material, but also old gems like 'In the Night'. The scene was sublime: the stage awash with psychedelic swirls and blocks of colour as the sun was slowly setting over the River Thames immediately behind the stage in what Neil Tennant described as “Surely one of the world's most beautiful festival sites”. Revellers on passing boats waved at the festival crowd, glasses of fizz in hand, and the crowd waved back, many dancing, having shed their bow ties, dinner jackets or pashminas as the luxurious boats kept coming by. Perhaps it is seeing Pet Shop Boys live that drives home the particular quality they have. They do great club tunes that work brilliantly as a dance set, far better than as individual pop songs. Towards the end of the second set, all the big--hitters were wheeled out. The familiar intro to 'West End Girls' sent hundreds of arms skywards and the crowd roared approval as 'The Enigma' and then the burlesque 'Sodom and Gomorrah Show' blasted out into the warm Henley night. Then there was the trio of 'It's a Sin', 'Devices' and 'Go West'. The pair left the stage to frenzied applause, but returned with 'Domino Dancing' before a sing-along finale of 'Always on My Mind'. The audience went crazy and finally left slowly, reluctantly, glowing and dishevelled, making their way into the balmy Henley night - grinning broadly. The Pet Shop Boys have worked their magic again.

Also at Henley, Oxfordshire

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Pet Shop Boys - Henley Festival, Henley, Oxfordshire, 6/7/2017

Pet Shop Boys - Henley Festival, Henley, Oxfordshire, 6/7/2017

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