Concert Review: Pet Shop Boys Bring Some Super Songs to Portland

pet-shop-boys

The Pet Shop Boys returned to Portland on Tuesday just three years after their first ever visit but this time the 80s icons took the stage at the Keller Auditorium in support of their 13th album Super which was released in April.

Sticking to their new foray into heavy bass beats and dance riffs as the last two albums attest, the evening felt very much like attending a nightclub though all eyes were directed towards the stage and the stars of the evening. Singer Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe moved briskly through a 23 song set stretched over an hour and 45 minutes that sent thumping vibrations into a decent sized audience turnout from the start of the show through the final act.

But if the pop kids of the 80s who loved the pop hits of the same era were expecting the British duo to whisk them through a nostalgia act of radio hits and all those celebrated cuts, they quickly learned these two have been busy writing and recording new music.

The Boys started the show with “Inner Sanctum” off the new album, hit a familiar-favorite mixed with a cool dance beat in “West End Girls” then a return to the new album with the single “The Pop Kids” before another trip 30 years back to their first remix album Disco for the catchy and underrated “In the Night” then again to current fare with “Burn.”

By now, Tennant and Lowe changed outfits losing the odd looking pumpkin shaped headwear and were joined by three additional musicians on keyboards, organic drums and electronic percussion. The evening  continued as PSB dove into 2013’s Electric performing “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct” one of two songs from that album this evening, “New York City Boy” off 1999’s Nightlife and a touch of Caribbean on “Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is)” from Bilingual  now 20 years old that felt a bit flat.

“Twenty-Something” brought the new album back to the stage and then the very popular “Love Comes Quickly” continuing the 30 year cycle trend but it was the last song played off the group’s smash album Please. The catchy “Love etc.” came next off 2009’s Yes album and then an extended run of new songs that unfortunately failed to capture the charm of so many of their hits.

The rather dark piece off Super “The Dictator Decides” featured a strange video backdrop with ants and its slow pace meandered a bit. Electric’s “Inside a Dream” didn’t help much to pick up the tempo. Nor did “Winner” which represented 2012’s Elysium and by the time the opening tract off 2002’s Release “Home and Dry” was done people started taking their seats.

After an instrumental with Lowe taking the spotlight which apparently is called “The Enigma” Tennant returned to the stage for the great “Vocal” another cut off Electric and the energy missing for the last 15 minutes or so slowly returned. “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” tapped into 2006’s Fundamental and PSB of course continued with the religious theme bringing “It’s a Sin” infused with a delectable dance mix and a boost in bass that started a string of five fetching fan favorites to close the show.

By now everyone who sat was back on their feet and stayed upright as the Pet Shops Boys brought to life their third album Introspective with “Left to My Own Devices,” touched 1993’s Very with the cover song “Go West” and closed out the show with “Domino Dancing” and their other popular cover “Always on My Mind” both off Introspective.

The evening was signature Pet Shop Boys though much less choreography and those inspired Broadway style themes from past tours. Lasers throughout the night, along with a large video screen behind the stage and some interesting costumes changes. And the bass. Boy, was it heavy. Sometimes overpowering but often joyous nonetheless. Tennant’s vocals flowed smooth like melted butter. Flawless and sounding no different than when he and Lowe burst into the music scene in 1986.  You’d never know he turned 62 this summer.

Of course, not every new album can hold the same magnetism the Pet Shop Boys captured for their past efforts as their latest releases have more or less evolved from their keyboard centric beginnings but each possess a couple of solid gems worthy of rolling out that keeps the Pet Shop Boys Charm intact rather than the 20 or so minutes of mid-show dawdling when even the performers looked a bit bored.

“Happiness” the opening tract off Super though it may be lyrically challenged is certainly the most fun song off the album and no need to forget about Electric as “Axis” or “Fluorescent” would have helped keep up spirits.

At any rate, nearly half the setlist accounted for songs just 10 years old or less. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Pet Shops Boys have released five studio albums since 2009 and seven since the start of the new millennium. And, it’s certainly a welcome field to experience live such a wide variety of the band’s efforts as they could easily unveil two solid hours of hits and radio fare.

Instead they celebrate their present and honor their past.

Pet Shop Boys Portland Setlist (Keller Auditorium)

1.  Inner Sanctum
2.  West End Girls
3. The Pop Kids
4. In the Night
5.  Burn
6. Love Is a Bourgeois Construct
7. New York City Boy
8. Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is)
9. Twenty-something
10. Love Comes Quickly
11. Love Etc.
12. The Dictator Decides
13.   Inside a Dream
14. Winner
15. Home and Dry
16. Instrumental – The Enigma
17. Vocal
18. The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
19. It’s a Sin
20. Left to My Own Devices
21. Go West
22. Domino Dancing
23. Always on My Mind

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Def Leppard Never Gets Old

Def Leppard at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR

Def Leppard performs at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR

Def Leppard returned to the Pacific Northwest on Friday for the fifth time in seven years this time filling the smaller and more intimate Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR in support of their latest album Def Leppard out nearly a year ago.

The setlist didn’t change much from past tours – of course you’re there for all those yummy arena rock anthems and the radio staples – but the classy Brits sneaked in three off the new album and added (for some reason) a cover song in a solid 17 song set that lasted just more than 90 minutes.

Def Leppard got started with the first tract off the new album “Let’s Go” which completely falls in line with the band’s stockpile of songs. It sounds like Def Leppard and feels like Def Leppard. It’s got a familiar hook (Sugar anybody?) and was that both Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell playing the guitar solo, together? It rocked and so did the next one – “Animal.” (Never gets old.)

Singer Joe Elliott really shined on this one, the song now almost 30 years old, off their smash record Hysteria. The band continued with “Let It Go,” don’t get it confused with the first one, because it sounds nothing like it and is 34 years older. It’s an oft overlooked gem from 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry and the boys shredded through it adding a menacing jam to close it out that reduced the album version to rubble.

Def Leppard Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen

Def Leppard Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen

The big single off their latest record came next -”Dangerous” – and yes it gets airtime. Well, on Sirius radio, at least. Campbell got the go ahead on this one and proved why Def Leppard chose him nearly 25 years ago to replace the late Steve Clark. The 80’s smash “Foolin’” followed and then the female centric “Love Bites.”

“Armageddon It” (never gets old) continued the eventual six scoop dip into 1987’s Hysteria with Campbell in the driver’s seat. Not sure if the band dropped an octave or two, but something proved peculiar about the live treatment on this one as it sounded really fresh and a bit different. Don’t worry, it kept the album version intact. Just goes to show how well the 12 times platinum album stands up over time.

Def Leppard covered the David Essex song “Rock On” from their 2006 covers album Yeah! OK, so technically, sort of, they played a Def Leppard song but with all the gems on their new album it sure would have been nice to hear another one. It’s not a bad song, in fact they gave it justice, it’s just not their song and with such a deep catalog available, even without offering another new tune, let’s consider the covers album recess but don’t include it on the touring setlist.

They followed with the new “Man Enough,” see they could have done back-to-back off Def Leppard, like, oh perhaps the fantastic balled “We Belong”? Really just about any song off the new album. Anyway. It was great at least to get three songs and you’d think the band would showcase more off their first studio album in seven years and 11th overall. But enough of that.

Guitarist Vivian Campbell

Guitarist Vivian Campbell

Because “Rocket” (never gets old) came next which started an eight song run of their most popular fare with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (really never gets old) closing out the first set and the band returning with “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” (never… you get the picture) for the encore.

Def Leppard has seemingly been touring non-stop for the last few years. This show felt like a second leg of sorts from last year’s show with Tesla opening and REO Speedwagon taking over for Styx. The band recycled some of the imagery and big screen backdrop used on songs like the cursive writing to “Love Bites,” the old style TV screens on “Hysteria” and the trip down memory lane for “Photograph.” They indeed do a great job with the video production element which often upstages their playing! On “Rock of Ages” a camera mounted on Collen’s fretboard showcased a mesmerizing view of the guitarist playing.

It’s been 36 years since Def Leppard stepped foot on American soil and while all the members are well into their 50s they seem no worse for the wear and show little signs of slowing down. The new album confirms the band still has the creative juices flowing and they don’t appear content to rest on their laurels and just repackage a Greatest Hits show every year. Of course, their collection of greatest hits alone outpaces some bands entire collection of songs (at least listenable ones anyway) and they probably could get away with doing so. In many respects though, it’s felt that way, especially as openers for KISS a few years back but a mush deserved rest to come and Def Leppard should be back.

REO Speedwagon at Matthew Knight Arena

Like Styx, REO Speedwagon does seem content on touring, till the end, their greatest hits. They put on a solid performance but if you’ve seen them once in the last five years or so that’s pretty much what you’re going to get, every time.

It’s more of a nostalgic trip as the band hasn’t released a new album in nearly 10 years and the newest song featured – their smash hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” from 1984. REO Speedwagon is just about a full time touring act nowadays and they could probably play the songs in their sleep by now. Singer Kevin Cronin has done a great job adapting his vocals to a range he can reach and all those 80s hits still hit you as hard as they did more than 30 years ago.

REO Speedwagon played a 10 song set for about an hour which opened with “Don’t Let Him Go” and included the underrated “Time for Me to Fly” and “Roll With the Changes” and of course “Keep On Living You” a song born from a simple three-chord piano riff Cronin said got stuck in his head one early morning so he got up at 4 a.m. to write it down. And their lives haven’t been the same since.

Def Leppard Setlist – Eugene, OR (Matthew Knight Arena)

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Animal
  3. Let It Go
  4. Dangerous
  5. Foolin’
  6. Love Bites
  7. Armageddon It
  8. Rock On
  9. Man Enough
  10. Rocket
  11. Bringing on the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 625
  13. Hysteria
  14. Let’s Get Rocked
  15. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  16. Rock of Ages
  17. Photograph

Written By: AndrewT