Pet Shop Boys: ‘Unfinished business in Edinburgh’

Pet Shop Boys. Picture: John Wright
Pet Shop Boys. Picture: John Wright
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YOU could say that Pet Shop Boys went down a storm on their last visit to Edinburgh. But not in a good way.

The date was December 31, 2006 and everything was in place for the electro-pop superstars’ Hogmanay Hits Extravaganza: the set-list was drawn up and rehearsed, the early-afternoon soundcheck had gone well, and Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were relaxing in their hotel rooms before the big event.

But then it all went horribly wrong.

At around 8.40pm, the dynamic duo were given the news that the show could not go ahead because of bad weather, with heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph causing damage to the concert site as rigid stage structures and equipment took an absolute battering.

So as pop’s elder statesmen return tonight to Edinburgh – their first visit here since the aforementioned cancelled event – they feel they have “unfinished business” to attend to as they conclude their global tour by headlining the world’s biggest Hogmanay celebrations.

“We’re delighted to bring this show to Scotland on New Year’s Eve,” says 59-year-old Tennant, who alongside musical partner Lowe has sold more than 50 million records worldwide as Pet Shop Boys, who are listed as the most successful duo in UK music history by The Guinness Book of Records.

“We’ve always felt we’ve had some unfinished Hogmanay business in Edinburgh after the weather put a stop to the planned 2006 show – and this is going to be a fantastic way to see in the new year.”

From the release of their first No 1, West End Girls in 1985, to their most recent offering, the July-released Electric (their 12th album proper), Tennant and Lowe have barely been out of the spotlight.

As well as more than 20 Top Ten hits and a dozen Top Ten albums, the pair have also starred in their own film (an avant garde feature called It Shouldn’t Happen Here), written and staged a West End musical called Closer To Heaven, and penned a live score to Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, a silent movie made in Leninist Russia in 1925.

Over the years, Pet Shop Boys have collaborated with numerous artists such as Dusty Springfield, Liza Minnelli, David Bowie, Elton John, Shirley Bassey, Boy George, Ricky Martin, George Michael, Girls Aloud and Lady Gaga, and in 2009 they received a BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music.

It goes without saying, then, that their performance at Concert In The Gardens to see in the bells is one of the most eagerly-awaited gigs to grace the city in some time – especially after the disappointment of the cancelled show in 2006/07.

Tennant, who once worked in the London office of Marvel Comics, editing British versions of comics such as Spider-Man and X-Men before going on to become deputy editor of Smash Hits magazine, met keyboard wizard Lowe in an electronics shop on London’s King’s Road in 1981, which led to the formation of Pet Shop Boys.

Recalling the moment their paths first crossed, Tennant, who was born in North Shields, Tyne And Wear, says, “I had bought a synthesiser and was in a shop down the road from where I lived looking for a jack that would allow me to plug my synthesiser into my 1980s-hifi, so that I could play it through the speakers.”

Lowe also happened to be in the shop and the pair struck up an instant friendship and were soon writing songs together. “I had always wanted to write music,” says Tennant, who started penning songs at the age of 12. I was inspired by The Beatles.

“I had just sort of fallen into journalism. That made it more difficult to succeed as a musician. I can’t think of anyone else who has gone from journalist to musician successfully.”

Nonetheless, Tennant did just that and he and Lowe have been churning out the hits ever since.

Don’t expect the duo to get hung up reminiscing about their glorious career, however.

“I don’t think we think about our contribution to pop,” says 54-year-old Lowe, who hails from Blackpool. “I’m not sure anyone does, maybe Paul McCartney, but I think most people are thinking about what they do at the moment and a lot of artists don’t like dwelling on the past too much because they’re working on the present.

“That’s true of painters and filmmakers as much as anyone else, too, so we probably don’t think about the past too much,” he adds.

Pet Shop Boys – Greatest Hits Show, plus special guests The 1975, Nina Nesbitt and The 10:04s, Concert In The Gardens, Princes Street Gardens, tonight, stages live from 8.30pm-1am, £40, for more information visit wwww.edinburghshogmanay.org