Pet Shop Boys at the Beacon Theatre.

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Yes, another concert photo post! I go to a lot of concerts, but I don’t usually blog about them because it’s just much too much. In the past couple of months alone I’ve gone to see Adam Ant, Janelle Monáe, Depeche Mode, Public Enemy/LL Cool J/Ice Cube…and I have The Cure and Johnny Marr coming up right around the corner. There are few things in life that make me happier than going to concerts (I even wrote a list of concert-going tips), and in recent years I’ve been making a concerted effort to go see bands/artists I’ve liked for years but haven’t taken the initiative to experience live.

And so: Pet Shop Boys. I went to see them for the very first time Monday night at Beacon Theatre, and it was really an incredible night. I don’t have any local friends who are fans (or at least I don’t think I do!), so I managed to score a really good single ticket that was remaining between grouped blocks — 2nd row! As soon as the show started, I was able to just stand next to the stage, essentially making it a front-row kinda night (albeit more to the side of the stage than is ideal, but I’m not complaining). I’ve said it before, but it really does matter to me to be up close. I like to be fully immersed. When my friend Jenna and I went to see Depeche Mode a few weeks ago at the enormous Barclays Center in Brooklyn, we were so far up in the nosebleeds that we might as well have been watching in TV…but I degress.

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I was completely and totally unprepared for what this concert turned out to be. It was performance art — scene after scene, with costume changes and dancers and a narrative thread running through the entire thing. It’s funny, Pet Shop Boys were HUGELY popular when I was in junior high (the reissue of “West End Girls” was a massive hit in the US around the time I was making friendship bracelets nonstop), but I didn’t really grow into becoming a fan until quite a few years later. Very (with its Pentagram-designed nubby-dotted orange cover) was released the same month I started college, and I fell into a crowd of British electronic dance-pop fans. It’s a phenomenal album, I’d argue it’s their best. Pet Shop Boys had always seemed much lighter to me than, say, New Order, but once I started listening to the lyrics — always frank to a fault; romantic and funny and sad but hopeful — and growing attached to Neil Tennant’s voice, my appreciation for their music was solidified.

Anyway, now that I’ve seen them live, I’m ashamed that I never let that appreciation develop into the kind of full-blown fandom that would’ve led me to buy tickets to a show a long time ago! It really was a spectacular performance. Seeing this show right on the heels of Depeche Mode makes me feel happy about all of the great new music that’s still being put out by the old school of electronic music.

Here’s a very short, badly-cut Instagram video:

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WOWZA. I’m told by friends who have seen Pet Shop Boys many times in the past that this tour is nowhere near as visually extravagant their previous, which doubly fills me with regret for waiting so long. (Not that I felt disappointed, mind you!) As much as music is about, well, the music, it’s also about aesthetics for me, and I care about album packaging and presentation and all of that kind of thing. Seeing visual continuity between record sleeves, music videos, costuming and live performance is very exciting! I can only describe the whole thing as a kind of lush minimalism, if that’s possible, avant-garde without pretension (again, if that’s possible).

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Pet Shop Boys are currently on tour in support of their latest album, Electric (produced by Stuart Price, who opened the show with a DJ set as his Jacques Lu Cont persona). If you have the inclination and the opportunity, GO. Even though I went to the show alone, I walked out really wishing that I’d had certain friends with me just because I know they would have loved the visuals and the ecstatic atmosphere…and the music too, of course.

Full setlist:
Axis / One More Chance + Face Like That / Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) / Memory of the Future / Fugitive / Integral / I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing / Suburbia / I’m Not Scared / Fluorescent / West End Girls / Somewhere / Leaving / Thursday / Love Etc. / I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too) / Rent / Miracles / It’s a Sin / Domino Dancing / Always on My Mind // (Encore) Go West / Vocal

22 comments
  1. KatieSep 19, 20133:51 am

    Hey Anna, great photos! Looks like a fantastic show. I just read your concert going tips – you should check out songkick. They’ve got a site and an app: you set up a profile, track your favorite artists, and even scan your itunes (with the app) and they tell you when they’re playing in your city. You can connect it to spotify and facebook as well. It’ll change your gig-going life!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks, Katie! I have a Songkick account, but it never seems to work out when it comes to presales and stuff like that. I usually find out about special shows and advance sales through the fan clubs/message boards.

  2. katieSep 19, 20133:53 am

    (And you can upload your photos to a gig’s page and track all the concerts you’ve been to)

    [Reply]

  3. becca waterlooSep 19, 20139:44 am

    wow, i’ve never seen costumes like that before… awesome!!

    [Reply]

  4. DerekSep 19, 201310:31 am

    Thanks for the pics and good write-up. We’re only 10 days away from our Electric experience in Chicago! Yipee!

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  5. ChrisSep 19, 201311:20 am

    Heh. “concerted effort”. I see what you did there. :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Completely unintentional, really!

  6. CTSep 19, 20131:24 pm

    Pet Shop Boys looks like an amazing show. We just took a road trip to see the Delta Machine tour and I really loved the graphics/interplay they had set up with the video screens. But NYC, man, you guys get everything and everyone. I must say I’m a little jealous (in a good way). Cheers – CT

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yeah, the projections and set design for Depeche Mode were GREAT — that was really the only upside of being so far away, I could see the entire set at once.

  7. LizzieSep 19, 20132:31 pm

    Love, love, love the Pet Shop Boys! Very jealous. And honestly, I’ve never seen someone take such good concert photos. I don’t know how you manage that, but it’s amazing.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks, Lizzie! I think it’s mostly because my camera is good in low light, and I’m usually up near the front. I just leave everything on automatic and hope for the best!

  8. KarenSep 19, 20133:47 pm

    Chiming in to concur that your photos are fantastic & ask what camera you use or if it was your phone? Looks like it was an amazing time!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Karen, I have a Leica D-Lux 5 — it’s a tiny point & shoot that’s great in low light. That’s what I use for all of the photos on my blog (unless I’m lazy and using my iPhone!).

  9. Steph NelsonSep 19, 20137:48 pm

    I purchased a Leica D-Lux 5 specifically because of your concert pics! :) Could you share with me
    on what settings you normally leave it on for concerts? Thanks!!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Automatic! I disable the flash, but that’s the only setting I change.

  10. LynnieSep 20, 20139:45 am

    Super photos, as usual!

    I stumbled into a Pet Shop Boys gig in 2006. They were playing a small tent at a music festival in Ireland and they were the absolute (if accidental) highlight of my weekend!

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  11. JaneSep 20, 20137:34 pm

    Lucky you to be seeing so many terrific bands. You are seeing The Cure, how I wish I was! I love them. Your renovations are an inspiration as well!

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  12. KatieSep 21, 20138:28 am

    Yeah, I guess you’re right there. They don’t really get to release anything earlier than ticket outlets I guess. They are working on a cool project though, called Detour — it’s a sort of crowdfunding for bands. You pledge to see a band you like in your city and if enough people pledge, Detour will put on the show. Right now it’s only in the UK but hopefully it’ll reach the states. Sounds like a great idea – less money going to ticket vendors and more going to great bands. Hopefully loads more great artists will be able to tour this way!

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  13. eleniSep 21, 201310:25 am

    One of the earliest music related memories that I have is my dad playing It’s A Sin in the car, full-blast! i have loved the band ever since. This post has made my day and brought back so much. Thank you!

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  14. gracieSep 21, 201311:01 am

    Looks amazing, I saw them once before, so good. Please do more music, film and book posts! I love your taste. Moonstruck is now one of my favourite movies :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thank you, Gracie! :)

  15. KellySep 24, 201312:43 am

    I never would’ve guessed from the photos alone that this was Pet Shop Boys. Also, I hope you post a recap after you see The Cure — they remain up there as favorites, but I’ve only seen them live once…for the Hot, Hot, Hot tour. It was a loooong time ago!

    [Reply]

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