It's a Sin!

I'm not even sure how to begin to explain Tuesday night's Pet Shop Boys show at the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard; 314-726-6161), which was hands-down one of the best concerts I've seen all year. Vocalist Neil Tennant said it was the first time they'd ever been to St. Louis -- can anyone confirm this? -- but the wait was worth it. The two-hour-ish gig was over the top, campy, serious, uplifting, touching and hilarious, thanks to an elaborate stage setup that featured two dancers, two backup singers, one diva (Sylvia Mason-James) and plenty of hits. Heck, it was such a big deal that AMP (4199 Manchester Avenue; 314-652-5267) shut its doors for the duration of the show and only reopened after the gig was done. Now that's commitment!

To give you a sense of the night, I think a list of highlights will have to suffice. To wit:

1. Tennant sported a perma-smirk and a bitching top hat, while quieter Chris Lowe (see our story) stood stage left behind his keyboards, wearing sunglasses, a hoodie and a stoic look -- seriously, he barely cracked a smile. Jay and Silent Bob, anyone? Sylvia's headgear, however, took the cake: a big silver visor with a pineapple on top. A Carmen Miranda rave look? Hmm.

2. The duo and their posse entered through two giant silhouettes of Lowe and Tennant -- a versatile screen setup that also was used for video projection and a light board -- and burst into "Psychological," from the new album, Fundamental. A few songs later came the uptempo club burst "I'm With Stupid," and that's all I needed to hear from the disc.

3. Early big sing-alongs included "Can You Forgive Her?" and "Rent"; the pace dragged when the boys sang "Minimal" and "Shopping," two songs that resembled Sesame Street in the way they spelled out the song's titles. A lot.

4. Their backing dancers had some serious Fosse action going on, spiced up with some B-Boy moves (at one point two inexplicably sported Denver Nuggets jerseys for Alex English. WHAT?), a little West Side Story tussling action (during "Suburbia" -- and let me tell you, the men in the suburbia I knew were nowhere NEAR that hot) and plenty of herky-jerky robot grooves ("West End Girls").

5. The best song choregraphy: Before "Always on My Mind," two large renditions of Lowe and Tennant's heads were rolled onstage. Like, we're talking massive cranium action. Throughout the song, two of their backup men popped up from behind them on three separate occasions and danced like court jesters while wearing rainbow-checked suit jackets and various ridiculous, multicolored hats decorated with, among other things, inflatable guitars and flowers. Then the heads were wheeled away, leaving a gigantic top hat held up by someone who then proceeded to dance, with only his legs showing. So: a giant dancing top hat. I could not make this stuff up.

6. Second-best song choreography: a cover of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name," which went back and forth into "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." To the delight of most of the crowd, the dancers sported cowboy hats, tight gold lame pants and vests and did buckaroo dances -- a cross between the Electric Slide and an Erasure video. Even Tennant got in on some of the kickline-dancing action, grinning all the while.

7. Third-best song choreography: "The Sodom & Gomorrah Show." Ever imagined what accoutrements gay soldiers -- and/or homosexual Nazis -- would utilize? Wonder no more. Soldier uniforms decorated with spangly medals/sequins/decorations (Tennant wore one) drove the concept of this uptempo ditty. Even better was the end of the tune, when two brought out rifles with flowers at the ends and suggestively shot at each other and posed with the guns like they were at the Complex or something. Sassy. Brings new meaning to "Don't ask, don't tell."

8. Honorable mention for song presence: an acoustic version of the love song "Home & Dry," which found Tennant strapping on a guitar and playing it low-key and acoustically. It brought a tear to my eye.

9. The encore one-two punch of "It's a Sin" and "Go West" absolutely brought the house down. For a more complete setlist, check out this comprehensive Web site.

10. Oh, and the bathroom lines for women were blissfully short! Woo-hoo!

All in all, a fabulous night. Come back soon, PSB! We love you!

-Annie Zaleski

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