Pet Shop Boys at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR (October 4, 2013)
The Pet Shop Boys show on Friday night at the regal Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland was a restrained 80’s new wave wet dream. First of all, who goes to an electro-pop gala to sit on their derrière? 99% of the attendees stood, but no one was allowed to bust a move outside of their designated seats. But one brave female fan could not suppress her urge and ran to the front of the stage during “Domino Dancing”. For about two minutes, she demonstrated how a Pet Shop Boys’ concert should be experienced, before the security escorted her back to her seat.
The restrainment also denied the usual front-of-stage/first-three-song standard press photo policy. The handful of photographers were contained to the shadowy outskirts, dozen rows back - a last minute change that had us trying our best to cope with the undesirable situation. If that limitation didn’t kept us from trying to feel the spirit of the performers, we also had to deal with the ubiquitous smartphones projected in the viewfinder like a middle-finger. At one point, I found myself snapping the screens of the mobile devices.
As if the synth-adrenalized paragons like “It’s A Sin” and “Suburbia” weren’t enough to torment our joints, the visual aids further goaded our inhibition. Behind the lasers, fogs, projections, nimble dancers, and colorful costumes ranging from disco ball heads to spiky black jackets resembling magnetic field lines, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe performed with their trademark sub-detached air, where they have always felt like studious scientists conducting experiments on their participants. Actually, Tennant did his best to arouse the crowd, shouting “Portland” several times. Perhaps, the 59-year old singer was also baffled by our cubicles of constraint. At one point, Lowe could be seen pinning the corner of his mouth for a bonafide smile - a rare sight indeed.
Despite the “nuisance”, the Boys made their first-ever Portland performance something to cherish, complete with orange confetti that showered us as “You Are Always On My Mind” reminded us why they have been a such force in pop music. With their twelfth studio album, Electric, receiving a widespread acclaim, and looking comfortable in the spotlight more than ever, the iconic English duo must have found a formula to freeze time. Yes, for these forty, fifty-something concertgoers, Pet Shop Boys have kept the dream of the eighties alive for over three decades.
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