Written and Photographed by Lisa Melograno
Last Sunday, the Mann music center hosted two of the eighties’ most influential bands on their month-long Unity Tour. The Pet Shop Boys and New Order filled the crisp autumn air with their electro-pop and synthesized post-punk sounds on one of their month-long Unity Tour stops. The crowd was a mixture of fifty percent Gen X with a few Boomers who attended to relish two of their favorite bands. The other half was a combination of Millennials and Gen Z, some of whom dressed in Eighties Punk and new wave era clothes. Quite a few even wore New Order and Joy Division T-shirts. A few young girls wore short flared and pleated miniskirts (some black and some tartan), fishnet stockings, and Doc Martins. Regardless of age or clothing, everyone was united for the same reason, to listen and experience the sounds and showmanship of the artists performing.
The Pet Shop Boys made their debut in 1984 and have recorded 14 albums. Once the stage was revealed, the crowd jumped to their feet, applauded, and cheered loudly. The Pet Shop Boys were on a minimalistic set with two streetlights and microphone stands. The Boys were 8 feet apart and had long overcoats, and a mask that had what resembled a tuning fork pointed upright. “Suburbia” was the first song, followed by “Opportunities.” Neil Tennant walked the length of the stage, singing and his voice was as soothing as it ever was. He even grasped the streetlight a few times as if he were the star of a musical. Keyboardist Chris Lowe remained with his mark as still as a statue throughout the first group of songs.
Along with their hits, there were a few cover songs thrown in; “Always on My Mind” and “Where the Streets Have No Name/I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” had the fans join in singing in harmony. The Pet Shop Boys closed their seventeen-song set with ‘It’s a Sin,” another one of their famous hits. The Encore finished the performance with “West End Girls” and “Being Boring.” The audience remained on their feet, chanting throughout their show. When the band left the stage, the music did not stop. DJ Paul Oakenfold was off to the side, spinning dance music as the stage transformed for New Order’s performance.
New Order’s Post Punk style, combined with synth and electronic pop, laid the groundwork for the genre. Their heavy bass and synthesizer became popular club music in the eighties. The stage was simple and eclectic, focusing on their music and talent. The setlist featured a lot of their older songs which delighted the audience. New Order started with “Regret,” followed by “Age of Consent,” which became a melody of thousands of fans singing along. As the band played, the set became a spectacular laser and light show that pulsated along with the heavy bass and synthesized keyboard played by Gillian Gilbert. “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “True Faith” did not disappoint, but when the heavy bass of “Blue Monday’s” introduction started, the crowd exploded in jubilation. The six minutes song sounded just as good in person as the first time I heard it thirty years ago.
The music and light show was spectacular, and with every flashing light, it was as though I could remember every time and place I was when I heard the song “Blue Monday.” The set concluded with “Temptation,” and then came the Encore, and just when one thought the show could not get any better, New Order finished with an encore of two Joy Division songs, “Decades” and” Love Will Tear Us Apart” The crowd went wild. Joy Division was New Order’s antecedent, but after the sudden death of their lead singer, Ian Curtis, the surviving members started New Order and added the synth-electro sound they are known for. Today’s band consists of Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Cunningham, and Tom Chapman.
The Pet Shop Boys and New Order Unity Tour were well worth the wait. I cannot think of a time I have been so mesmerized at a concert. From the Pet Shop Boys’ costumes and setting playing their electro-Pop hits, one could not help moving and singing along with two New Orders’ heavy bass and synthesized electro music with an outstanding light show. Their Unity Tour has both bands switching the headlining position on their North American tour, which considering their influential contributions to music, seems only fitting.
Pet Shop Boys