Pet Shop Boys/ARE Weapons : London Astoria

The pop duo showcase their 'stripped-down' sound at the latest NME Carling Show...

After the feast of fantastic music the NME CARLING SHOWS have served up this year, it’s time for the crowning glory.

The [a]Pet Shop Boys[/a]’ ‘intimate’ gig is one of the most anticipated shows of NME’s week-and-a-half at London’s Astoria, and, after a surprisingly well-received set by electro punks ARE Weapons, the anticipation is palpable. From a prime slice of swaggering New York sleaze to, erm, ‘New York City Boy’.

The Boys’ forthcoming LP ‘Release’ is a stripped-down, guitar-driven affair and tonight’s stage show discards the chintz and glamour of previous [a]Pet Shop Boys[/a] tours (apart from the percussionist’s Janet Street Porter-style day-glo earrings). The overall intention is, presumably, to make people focus on the music, maaan. Problem being that many of the new songs, such as the single ‘Home & Dry’ and the lyrically appalling ‘Sexy Northerner’, lack the spark, the pop rush that so encapsulates this group. And ‘I Get Along’ is a total rip-off of [a]Embrace[/a]’s ‘Come Back To What You Know’. Surely it would be wise not to wear that particular influence on their sleeve(s)?

Suffice to say the highlights are the meagre back catalogue offerings. ‘Being Boring’ shows off its effortless charm, ‘Was It Worth It?’ perversely works far better with a skeletal backing, while a pounding ‘Go West’ nearly brings the roof off the place. However, ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Love Comes Quickly’ sadly sound tired and a little bit dated.

So it doesn’t hit the heights of the group’s damn near legendary Glastonbury 2000 show, but for many of the rabid fans here tonight, the thrill of seeing their heroes in such an intimate venue creates a moment to be cherished forever.

Alan Woodhouse