Jul 7, 2024

Pet Shop Boys create their own magical dreamworld at Co-Op Live

I visited Manchester's new mega-arena Co-Op Live to see a double-act called... [looks at notes]... the Pet Shop Boys. Have you heard of them?    

Dreamworld is the Pet Shop chaps' first ever greatest hits tour, which seems remarkable considering how long they've been farting out hit singles. And Dreamworld itself seems never-ending - the tour debuted in 2019, three prime ministers ago.

They were fabulous. Of course they were. Hit single after hit single after hit single. There is no point in listing all the songs here, suffice to say that the longest track title of the set was Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You), and the shortest track title was Rent. Is this helpful information? Probably not.

The concert began with Suburbia, a low-burning minor-key understatement of a track, and ended with Being Boring, a low-burning minor-key understatement of a track. Pet Shop Boys are forever on brand: even the track-listing is deadpanning us.

Some songs know they're good. They've got a glint in their eyes. Not that songs have eyes: that would be weird. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) had pompous energy. Jealousy was songwriting perfection. And how adorable was the carefree way that Neil threw away the final lines on What Have I Done To Deserve This?, as if he was at a karaoke night after a long day at the office. Big up Clare Uchima too, a perfect vocal foil throughout. 

It's A Sin has had a resurgence recently, helped by Olly Alexander's role in the TV series of the same name, and Alexander's band Years And Years warbling the tune at The Brits with Elton John. No surprise, then, that the song was the most triumphant moment of the gig. Also "Pet Shop Boys: It's A Sin" is an anagram of "Is it honest pop abyss?", which is a question we should all be asking ourselves.

A month previously, the Co-op Live was forced to delay its opening concerts after construction work got delayed. I did keep an eye out for men in orange jackets frantically welding bits of the building, but there was no sign of its earlier teething problems.

Is it a more intimate venue than, say, the Manchester Arena or the Etihad? Yeah, the layout is cleverly designed to mimic a smaller capacity. Is it Manchester's best new venue? No. Factory International's characterful Aviva Studios wins this one easily. Although it needs to bed in a little more, the Factory place has way more heart, as opposed to Co-op's cold boxiness.

A penultimate thought: The support act was some DJ bloke playing classic dance music tunes which we had all heard a million times before while his logo displayed on a big screen in endless uninspired permutations. Do better, concert planners.

And a final thought. If the Pet Shop Boys are pet shop boys, which one is on the till, and which one is looking after the animals? Answers on a postcard etc etc.

Further Fats: This is a review of an Aphex Twin gig (2011)

Further Fats: What was your first concert? (2019)