Legendary electronic pop duo Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) took the stage at the Fillmore Miami Beach to kick off the North American leg of their Electric tour. The band has been a Miami favorite ever since their music became a staple at South Beach nightclubs in the 1980s, and it’s clear those fans have been itching for them to come back. The Fillmore was sold out, with many fans donning T-shirts from previous tours or albums.
The night kicked off with a 45-minute DJ set by Jacques Lu Cont (aka Stuart Price), who famously produced Madonna’s highly acclaimed "Confessions on a Dance Floor" as well as "Electric," the latest Pet Shop Boys album. His set was intense and thumping, not particularly in tune with the kitschy sensibilities of the band he’s supporting, but nonetheless an excellent set that would be perfect for most.
On this night, the Boys’ original hits really electrified the crowd. “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” a witty track about the fallacies of consumer culture, was the first song to see the raucous (sometimes tipsy) crowd sing in unison as lead singer Tennant emerged in a spiky armor-like costume that recalled a porcupine. Another ironic and infinitely catchy hit, “Suburbia,” saw the band playing alongside a pair of dancers wearing bull skulls. The show reached its apex in a perfect showcase of dazzling laser lights and music when the glittering synths of “West End Girls” took hold. But the duo still had more hits up their sleeves: They played a high-energy trio of “It’s A Sin,” “Domino Dancing,” and “Always On My Mind,” all in the campy fashion they deserve.
Those looking for a show filled with the band’s old hits may have left slightly disappointed. While many signature songs were featured, nearly half of the setlist for the show was songs from the band’s most recent albums, "Electric" and "Elysium." It’s never easy to sell new music to a crowd that is not familiar with it; newer tracks were not met with the same feverish sing-a-long that greeted older material. This is not to suggest the music was not up to par, however; some the evening’s highlights included br />“Axis” (the first single from their latest record), a perfect opening number for the show that features a bustling, fast-paced track that builds into a frenzy and hyped up the band perfectly as they made their entrance in spectacular fashion: giant CGI images of the duo on a sheer projection screen behind which they performed.
Their performance of “Fluorescent” had a glossy electro-sheen that just sounds shiny and new but also felt cool without trying. Mashing up the 1984 track “One More Chance” with the 2012 single “A Face Like That” showcased how the the latter song feels rooted in today while representing the style of the band’s older work.
Even for nonfans, the spectacle alone was worth the price of admission. Massive projection screens displayed videos created to accompany every song with extremely high production values. There were numerous inventive stage set-ups; particularly impressive was the one for “Love Etc.” that used projections to make it look like the two were tossing and turning in single beds (although they were standing up in a prop-bed). The duo had probably as many costume changes as a pop diva does for a world tour; a favorite look had the duo clad in silver suits and wearing disco-ball headgear that reflected every bit of light shone on them.
The show could rival the most flashy of stadium tours, as if Lady Gaga and Daft Punk were to collaborate. The duo is as committed to bringing out the best in their performances as ever, and they have a magnetic connection with their loyal legion of fans that is hard to match. Perhaps more importantly, in this day of self-serious pop stars, it is refreshing to see musicians who go out of their way to have fun and throw a big bash.
Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys at Fillmore Miami Beach. Photo: Manny Hernandez