When Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe first toured in 1989, it was a decidedly unique event. The end result was a complete eschewal of the traditional rock concert format, instead incorporating a theatrical approach with stunning visuals, multiple costume changes and the songs themselves being presented as themed concepts complete with filmed backdrops. This eclectic approach has served them well, and with the exception of 2002’s deliberately stripped down (though still brilliant) Release Tour, the Pet Shop Boys have continually expanded on this formula, creating a show that is both visually incredible and undeniably memorable.
Pandemonium the DVD/CD was recorded at London’s 02 Arena on December 21, 2009—the last date of the Pet Shop Boys’ world tour. The DVD not only features the show in its entirety but also bonus live tracks not performed during the US leg that coincide with their then recently released Christmas EP. Someone has decided—and quite cleverly, I might add—to put two of these songs in the “extras” section rather than with the main show. While it certainly isn’t unusual for concert set lists to change, especially as the tour moves through different countries, by maintaining the basic set list that most of the world saw, the Pet Shop Boys kept the integrity of the original production intact. Those two bonus performances, both from the EP, are undeniably great and belong here, but the first, their cover of Madness’ “My Girl,” is simply lesser known and the other, “It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas” is obviously seasonal. Again, their inclusion on the DVD is quite welcome: “My Girl” is touchingly dedicated to their late friend Dainton and his wife, and the awesome “It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas” features the tour’s dancers/back-up singers dressed as Christmas trees and gleefully dancing around the stage, while Tennant and Lowe, dressed appropriately for the wintery backdrop projected behind them bring the evening’s festivities to their grand conclusion.
The other extra song, their classic duet “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” with the late, great Dusty Springfield fits perfectly into the main concert. The very entertaining and informative audio commentary (featuring Tennant, Lowe and the show’s amazing creative director and set designer Es Devlin) advises that the distorted pixelations projected on the deceptively simplistic white cardboard boxes that make up most of the set is actually Springfield from the original 1987 video of the song. While her unmistakable voice sings alongside Tennant’s, it is actually when her face is finally discernible—with the images continuing to be distorted and filtered to match the show’s style and colored cube imagery—that is truly stunning. The addition of this song, added to the tour in November, really is an added bonus for those who attended the North American shows in August and September.
Speaking of which, while it was beyond extraordinary seeing Pandemonium live (and for my much more detailed look at the US leg of this tour, please see my earlier online review) viewing it on DVD on a HDTV simply blew me away. During the two San Francisco shows I attended, I pretty much stood within the small confines of the crowded areas around me, so my views—while incredible—were limited to those scopes. What I love about a memento such as this DVD is that I’m finally able to see the entire presentation as a whole: the amazing Devlin-designed staging and full set, all of those great film projections, the incredibly exhaustive-looking dancing and choreography, those ingenious costumes including those iconic New York City skyline ones the four dancer wear, and above all, the Pet Shop Boys wondrous performance. Though it doesn’t specifically indicate it was filmed in HD, the picture here is crystal clear and the sound is quite excellent.