Those queuing around the block for the Pet Shop Boys’ Hull Bonus Arena show got a little more than they bargained for on a drizzly night on the east coast.
The thousands who had been eagerly anticipating Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe’s first gig in the city (it took a while considering they’ve been performing for four decades) were treated to an “interesting” rendition of some George Michael hits at a nearby karaoke bar. they waited outside the arena. Voices echoed faintly in the air. There’s no denying that it certainly gave an ’80s feel, but unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a patch on the delights delivered by the Pet Shop Boys when the sold-out crowd finally made their way into the room.
Fans had to wait a little longer to see the Pet Shop Boys in shell with the concert, like so many other events, delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tour, called Dreamworld, was billed as a set of hit shows aimed to coincide with the release of their 14th studio album, Hotspot, released in 2020.
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Taking the stage around 8 p.m., Tennant and Lowe delivered on their promise with a 26-song set filled with all of their greatest numbers. The opening songs, which included Suburbia and Opportunities, saw the duo perform alongside a pair of streetlights. The latter would actually be used to quite creative effect for the duration of the set with them regularly waltzing across the stage.
Shortly after, former Smash Hits reporter Tennant, 67, addressed the crowd: “We are the Pet Shop Boys in Hull for the first time and we are going to take you to a dream world. ” At that time, a screen, which showed impressive visuals propelled through the air, revealed the Pet Shop Boys touring band behind. This was met with huge cheers from the adoring public.
After 40 years and selling over 100 million records worldwide, curating a career-defining setlist is no enviable task, but judging by the crowd reaction, Tennant and Lowe have done it with poise. Acknowledging fans’ enthusiasm for Left to My Own Devices, Tennant said wholeheartedly, “You’re so amazing already, I love you.”
Perhaps because it was a greatest hits show, those who love the band also got some weird snippets here and there about how some of the couple’s best-known songs came to be. Charismatic leader Tennant explained how the inspiration for Domino Dancing came from the boredom of playing dominoes while on vacation in Saint Lucia.
At night the staging was truly marvelous and the flow and theatrics bordered on the West End musical at times. As the whole beat very intentionally peaked and hit a fabulous light show. It’s worth noting that the venue’s sound system, which opened in 2018, really packed a punch and did its part in bringing the thousands of people back to an ’80s synthpop nightclub.
In general, it was so obvious that many relived what made them fall in love with the Pet Shop Boys. For this reviewer, they often provided the soundtrack, alongside James and The Smiths, to play Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive when I was a kid in the 90s with my uncles.
There were some really emotional moments during the two-hour set. One came when Tennant, the quintessential pop diva with that distinctive soft voice who’s had countless costume changes, welcomed Clare Uchima to perform the voice of Dusty Springfield from What Have I Done to Deserve This?. Those aforementioned streetlights really earned their corn during this song with both singers being pushed across the stage, hanging onto them, performing the duet.
Another moment of real significance came during the filming of It’s a Sin. First released in 1987, from the album In Fact, it returned to the cultural zeitgeist thanks to Russell T Davies’ Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin, which follows a group of gay men living the HIV crisis of the 80s. During the performance, there was a rather poignant sight of a fan holding a rainbow flag aloft.
Returning to the stage for the two-song encore, Tennant asked, “Hull? What took us so long to get here? If ever there was any proof of the indisputable value of the Hull arena, then the Pet Shop Boys’ first appearance in town surely goes a long way in approving it. It was their last night of a UK tour which included them in big venues like London, Manchester and Newcastle.
Before the brilliant Pet Shop Boys bowed out, Tennant paid tribute to his musical partner, the always low-key Lowe, who looked a bit embarrassed by the cheers he received. There was a final emotional punch as Tennant made a dedication to those we’ve lost in recent years. Dedicating an emotional version of Being Boring, Tennant said, “We remember those we may have lost along the way.”
With these thoughts on the minds of many, Pet Shop Boys walked off the stage.
They are now off to play a few European dates with The Other Stage headliner’s little question at Glastonbury scheduled for their UK return.
- Can you forgive him?
- Opportunities (Let’s earn a lot of money)
- Where the streets have no name (I can’t take my eyes off you)
- I don’t know what you want but I can’t give it to you anymore
- Very difficult
- Left to my own devices
- Mono-bilingual / Se a vida é (This is how life is)
- domino dance
- monkey business
- new york city boy
- You only tell me you love me when you’re drunk
- love comes fast
- Losing the mind
- You were always on my mind
- What did I do to deserve this?
- It’s OK
- go west
- It’s a sin
- West end girls
- be boring
Don’t forget you can find the latest news on great gigs happening in and around Yorkshire by visiting our What’s On homepage where you can also find news on great things to do in the area.