ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Discovery (Live In Rio 1994) by Pet Shop Boys (May 2021)

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

RELEASED: Friday 30 April 2021

TRACKLIST: Tonight Is Forever; I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing; Always On My Mind; Domino Dancing; To Speak Is A Sin; One In A Million/Mr Vain; Paninaro; Rent; Suburbia; King’s Cross; So Hard; Left To My Own Devices/Rhythm Of The Night; Absolutely Fabulous; Liberation; West End Girls; Can You Forgive Her?; Girls And Boys; It’s A Sin/I Will Survive; Go West; Being Boring

This tour of Australia and South America was Pet Shop Boys’ 1st not to arrive in the UK which is a shame because despite being less of a spectacle than their previous 2 productions it’s far more fun.

  • Read on for reasons including what Pet Shop Boys are working on next

The sound of waves crashing onto a beach, a slowed-down version of the chorus of Tonight Is Forever and then a Jennifer Saunders quote from Absolutely Fabulous (‘Lights, models, guest list, just do your best darling’) and we’re whirling into the giddy abandon of I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing, a theme perfectly emphasising the fun at the heart of this production.

We’ve just finished re-reading Chris Heath’s side-splitting observations from the band’s first 2 tours (Pet Shop Boys, Literally and Pet Shop Boys Versus America) and it’s clear how seriously Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe took every aspect of the world building of their pop music careers thus far including stamping out encroaching product placement which might compromise it.

Quite why they never toured our favourite of their albums (the Very from Discovery) in this country we shall perhaps never know but after we caught them on those 1st 2 tours at the old Wembley Arena in 1989 and 1991, we would not see them again in London until the Savoy Theatre Somewhere run of 1997.

Long-time fans of the band will be familiar with their fondness for interpolating their own songs into each other during live gigs but we think it was on this tour that the basic idea took flight but with carefully chosen snatches of others’ classic songs instead of the Boys’ own.

For us the sound of 1993’s Very album was the soundtrack to our moving hundreds of miles from home and coming out and finding ourselves within a tight yet expanding group of old friends and new ones.

Album track One In A Million was galloping disco reminding of Could It Be Magic initially earmarked for Take That which perhaps in hindsight boasted a homerotic chorus that would have rendered it unsuitable (‘One In A Million men can change the way that you feel, One In A Million men, baby it’s up to me’).

Here it is turbocharged by the middle-eight interpolation of the disco frenzy of Mister Vain by Culture Beat, a number 1 across the world in 14 countries including the UK, which transforms the band’s album track from something joyous to the incredible.

The trick is repeated elsewhere with Left To My Own Devices enhanced by Corona’s UK number 3 hit Rhythm Of The Night and, perhaps most memorably, a spoken word and iconic I Will Survive standing on the shoulders of the gigantic It’s A Sin.

It’s utterly life-affirming stuff to make you yearn for a dance floor to best enjoy it on and perhaps that’s the reason why it has so recently been permitted this release, also on DVD which we’ve not seen.

Elsewhere, classic B-side (and later single) Lowe’s spoken word rap Paninaro is a genuine showstopper, Absolutely Fabulous is unfurled in all its glory despite the critical panning it took back home in the UK and the band’s re-imagining of Blur’s career high Girls And Boys fits seamlessly into this set.

We’ve always loved the uptempo Domino Dancing and Can You Forgive Her? and here they are allowed to fly. The clever wordplay of So Hard reminds of fellow northern icons Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood while never straying from the mirror balled disco.

The hits are present and correct and the absolute crowd euphoria that erupts during an early Always On My Mind gives a sense of how favourably received this tour was. We had the pleasure of seeing the band a decade later on tour in Barcelona and it was clear that despite the language barrier the pop juggernaut of the tunes alone was enough to transport the audience to a joyous state.

Critics who were describing the band as deadpan and arch in 1994 would likely have been bowled over by the sheer fun and exuberance of this tour and readers of the aforementioned books would have their ribs tickled by the inclusion of some of Tennant’s stage banter including the hilarious: ‘OK, let’s rock’ ahead of a dizzying Left To My Own Devices.

The band’s Dreamworld: Greatest Hits Live tour has been rescheduled to 2022 but Discovery is a timely reminder of how much fun Pet Shop Boys can bring to the live arena if they so choose.

We’re currently reading the band’s annual – Annually out last week – and it promises: ‘We’ve remixed Paul Weller, written a bunch of new songs and worked on the music for a new stage production.’

We’ve written about how the Boys’ only musical Closer to Heaven was so ahead of its time and we’d love to see a return to the theatre.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Pet Shop Boys Tickets
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