PET SHOP BOYS, Royal Opera House – Evening Standard, 21 July 2016

Thirty years since their debut album, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe set up camp for four nights in the Royal Opera House, a sumptuous classical venue that Tennant pointed out had been a dance hall during World War II. It was one again this evening. They could have ripped out the plush seats again for a fabulous evening that left no one static.

They named the performance Inner Sanctum, after a song on their new album and after the VIP part of a nightclub which only the privileged can access. That was what it felt like – an arena-worthy show in a relatively small space, complete with balloons, crazy outfits and enough lasers to down the Millennium Falcon.

A set by stage designer Es Devlin focused on the circle on the front of the recent album cover, Super, echoing it in everything from fluid giant screen animations to the revolving spheres from which Tennant and Lowe stepped at the start. Lowe wore face-obscuring metal headgear like a deep sea diver’s helmet, Tennant the same thing torn open to show sunglasses and a broad smile. Band members Afrika Green, Christina Hizon and Simon Tellier sported Metropolis-style helmets that must have been more transparent than they looked, otherwise they’d have been tumbling into the orchestra pit.

The songs on Super and its predecessor, Electric, show an energised Pet Shop Boys, making purely electronic music for what they say is the first time. Inside a Dream and Burn moved at an irresistable pace, while The Pop Kids had a vibrant melody but a wistful nostalgia at its core. On The Dictator Decides they were stranger, with Tennant tackling global politics from an unsual perspective while dressed as a Soviet naval commander. As ever, he proved that you can get away with the silliest outfit as long as you’re wearing sunglasses.

To round off the spectacle, they unveiled an army of dancers in coloured inflatable fat suits, animating the closing hits Go West and Always on My Mind like marching jelly babies. One was let down, unlike everyone in the audience at a remarkable 30th birthday party.

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