For discussion and photos of PSB live performances.
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I’ve long forgotten the name of the pub I was in, but I remember being deep in conversation with a guy who rather like me, lived for 80’s music. “Have you heard of a band called the Pet Shop Boys? Mark my words, they are going to be massive,” He said.
“What? With a stupid name like that” I sneered. And eighteen years later, I’ve realized that life can make you look a c*nt at times. Actually, it was two short months after that pub conversation when ‘West End Girls’ became number one all over the world and the PSB debut album ‘Please’ became essential background music for ogling tits on many a Spanish beach. And now here we are in the year 2002 and while the PSB aren’t quite the icons they were, they’re a band that no one really hates. I think it has much to do with the fact that Neil Tennant is such a likeable bloke. Admittedly, I wouldn’t get under a smoked glass coffee table to inspect his shite, but he is a very likeable bloke.
The Bangkok gig was the final date of a mammoth world tour that had kicked off in February and taken in Europe, America, the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, and even Singapore (though they don’t really deserve it). Tennant told the Bangkok audience that he couldn’t think of anywhere better than the capital of Thailand to finish a world tour and he apologized for it taking them so long to get here. But got here they finally did.
Thanks to Bangkok’s wonderful expressway system, I found myself at the Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, with a ridiculous amount of time to kill before the scheduled 8.30pm start. This didn’t bother me a great deal because being as this was the PSB (seriously gay band) playing live in Bangkok (seriously gay city), I expected it to be a people-watcher’s paradise, with perhaps outrageous trannies wandering about with cigarettes puffing away between exposed bum-cheeks, and people distributing gratis condoms. Perhaps, I was expecting too much, because apart from the odd flamboyant graphic design student type, it was a depressingly normal crowd. Nothing left for me to do except wander between the Singha beer tent and the California chicken franchise selling cardboard-tasting chicken and chips in a cardboard tray for 70 baht a pop. Then retire to a suitable corner where I can dirty my jeans on the floor. I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest.
In the time leading up to the eventual 9pm start, I gazed worryingly around the arena and the masses of empty seats. Glad to say that it was half-full by the time the PSB took the stage, and 9,000 eventually crammed themselves in leaving still a few empties at the back but hey for Bangkok this was an amazing turnout. Even though pop stars like these guys are bleedin’ loaded, I would hate anyone to walk out to a virtually empty stadium – even Gary Glitter.
The stage set was very simple – no banks of lighting or fancy backdrops, and I take my hat off to sponsors phone network provider GSM for not putting us through the ordeal of having a Thai ‘superstar’ on stage to warm up the crowd and not trying to ram their phones down our throats by way of childish competitions and giveaways. Instead we were left to just chill out by sitting on the stadium floor and letting the sounds of Leftfield and Spiritualized wash over us. Eventually the time approached, the lights darkened and everyone panicked and rushed for a suitable standing position. The Thai kid next to me, thinking wrongly that I was the kind of guy he could engage in conversation told me that it was the ‘herd effect’ and that he studied it in economics. Thanks for that mate. Get invited to many parties do you?
The band ambled on stage in a way that the Undertones would have been proud of. Neil picked up his guitar and they launched into ‘Home and Dry’ a release from the new album. Nice opener, but not powerful enough. Imagine if they’d opened with ‘Heart’ or ‘West End Girls’.
From Home and Dry, we went to ‘Being Boring’ and then ‘Red Letter Day’ from the Bilingual album. I don’t care who argues, but it is the ultimate PSB single. It’s gorgeous. I must have played it a thousand times and it still calls my sexuality into question.
“Like Christmas morning when you’re a kid, admit you love me and you always did”
‘I Get Along’, the second offering from the new album started to liven up the audience a little, but they really got going with ‘Love Comes Quickly’ from all those years ago, sung by Neil Tennant sitting in his favorite chair and doing a very passable impression of Val Doonican. “We still like that song” Yeah we do too mate.
‘London’ and ‘You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk’ were warmly received. The latter causing the other half to start giving me those looks. You know those looks right? Fortunately, Neil announced that now was the ‘disco phase’ and the moment passed as ‘Domino Dancing’ and ‘New York City Boy’ whipped all the botty bandits into a frenzy. I bet there weren’t too many Thai shirt-lifters out there who had the Nightlife album, but any song with the word ‘boy’ in it is sure to go down well. ‘Always on my Mind’ and ‘Sexy Northerner’ – a recently released B-side, both served well to keep up the carnival atmosphere. By now the party was in full swing. ‘Where the Streets Have no Name’ and the ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ interlude always goes down well.
‘Birthday Boy’ slowed things down a little and allowed the more energetic members of the audience time to wipe the sweat from the brows in readiness for a more acoustic version of ‘West End Girls’ – the PSB song even my grandmother knows. As this anthem to the 80’s died down and the band soaked up rapturous applause, it heralded the arrival of the sequined one. I’m not talking about some guest star that had been invited on stage, but a person who pushed his way past me to get as close up to his idols as possible. I’ve thought long and hard about how I can describe this person (I didn’t get any sleep at all last night), but ‘ a bloke wearing a f*** dress’ is the best I can do. It was a man……in a woman’s dress. No nail varnish, no implants, no make-up. Just a regular guy, probably a pipe fitter/welder by trade, and he had come out tonight in a Victorian lace number complete with ruff collar. He was actually one of a group of three friends – the others being a muscular black galley slave and a Thai girl who had the build of Dolph Lundgren. I’m tall, but I’m telling you, the bitch towered over me.
If the sequined one and its mates had come for just one song, it was surely ‘Go West’, the next item on the agenda. You can just sense how much Tennant loves this one. I guess we all do - even those of us who start shaking at the very thought of stripping to our underwear in front of another man. And as the crowds sang, Tennant moved from one side of the stage to the other giving everyone his little ‘gay wave’. At forty-eight years of age, I’m not sure how much longer he’s going to get away with that.
As I listened and swayed to one of the great all-time gay anthems, I imagined them performing it live on stage with the Village People. Just imagine that.
We were treated to the obligatory encore – ‘Left to My Own Devices’ and ‘It’s a Sin’ ( a huge favourite in Thailand) they thrilled us all by coming back on a second time so Neil could tell us how fortunate we were to live in such a wonderful city as this. Cheers mate. And he sang ‘Here’ and he sang it quite beautifully, just for Bangkok.
“You’ve got a home here. Call it what you want but you’ve got a home here”
Great night. They were far better than I expected. I still wouldn’t recognize Chris Lowe if he showed me his knob in a bus station, and I have nightmares of Neil retiring to live in Thailand with his millions, sitting on Jomtien Beach in with his polystyrene beer holder while a Thai gentleman rubs in suntan oil, but for now, the Pet Shop Boys are still well worth the money.
SET LIST: Home and dry / Being Boring / Red letter day / I get along / Love comes quickly / Domino dancing / London / Drunk / NYC boy / Always on my mind / Sexy northerner / Birthday boy / West end girls / Streets / Love is a catastrophe / Go west / Left to my own devices / It's a sin / Here
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