Pet Shop Boys/ Concrete: Live At The Mermaid Theatre


Concrete: In Concert at the Mermaid TheatreConcrete is the seventeenth album by the British band Pet Shop Boys. It was released on 23 October 2006. Due to be called Concert, on 20 September 2006, Pet Shop Boys announced that the album was going to be called Concrete, which was the title that they originally wanted for the album. It is the first live concert to be released by the band on Audio CD.

The performance recorded for the album took place at the Mermaid Theatre on May 8, 2006, as an exclusive for broadcast on BBC Radio 2‘s Sold on Song program. Attendance, totaling 600, was by invitation or through winning competitions held by Radio 2 and the band’s official website. The event was hosted by the BBC’s Stuart Maconie.

The May 27 Radio 2 broadcast included an interview conducted by Maconie, but excluded four songs from the running order (“You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk”, “After All”, “Numb”, and “Dreaming of the Queen”). The full concert was later broadcast on BBC 6 Music on August 28.

Due to the presence of the orchestra, the setlist was composed to consist of songs originally recorded with an orchestra. Consequently, aside from an extensive selection of songs from Fundamental, various non-studio album tracks were chosen, including the arrangement of “Rent” from the Liza Minnelli album Results, originally arranged by Angelo Badalamenti; “After All”, the portion of the band’s Battleship Potemkin soundtrack that accompanies the Odessa Steps sequence from the film (performed with the scene projected on a screen in the background); “Friendly Fire”, from the Closer to Heaven musical; and “Nothing Has Been Proved”, the theme song from Scandal, also arranged by Badalamenti.

“West End Girls” and “It’s a Sin” were the only exceptions to the rule, and were reworked to integrate the orchestra. [Wikipedia]

Disc One:

Left To My Own Devices—-One of my favorite tracks from the Introspective EP, this features a lush orchestration and plays remarkably well on CD. The energy of the orchestra is fed by the crowd and you know that you are in for a treat. The crowd literally goes wild when The Boys make their appearance. Rarely have I heard Neil sound better or more invigorated…one gets the feeling that he is truly in his element..singing in a tuxedo in a nice theatre behind a huge orchestra…this is magical!! And yes…Sylvia is here and she is fantastic!!!

Rent—-With some nice between song banter, Neil introduces this arrangement of Rent that was originally written for the Liza Minnelli release/PSB produced album Results. This is lush in arrangements and the synth is gone from the song…there is nothing but strings and subtle horns…but this plays masterfully. This is a piece of history, as I believe this version has never been released in this form on any other release. Magical. Neil sounds euphoric…he is indeed at home.

You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk—-The subtle synth lines return and play very well with the orchestration and the slight country vibe the song has always had. Neil…at this point in his career has actually begun to sing songs rather than talk his way through them and on this he has never sounded better. This has always been a quirky song that is for the fans only and the end result of this version is nothing less than stellar.

The Sodom And Gomorrah Show—-This song has always reminded me of that part of Pinocchio when every one was running around with donkey ears? The synth combines with the instrumentation and makes the song even larger than it was to begin with. This is done up in true PSB style…with over the top chorus and driving synth that settles in your stomach and brain for days to come…this is incredible!!!

Casanova In Hell—-Rufus Wainwright comes on stage to take the vocals for this track about an older playboy who has the embarrassing problem of a non-working erection. The song is hilarious in its original form…with Rufus singing, it takes on a tender edge that I have found myself reaching for over and over again. I prefer this version over the original these days.

After All—-This is a track from the soundtrack of Battleship Potemkin, which the Boys preformed live in Trafalgar Square. This is for fans only and is a majestic combination of electronics and strings coming together to create a lush landscape of emotion. This is simply remarkable. Neil has  vocals and delivers them with a magnificent flair. This is splendid!!

Friendly Fire—-This is a track from the ill-fated PSB penned musical Closer To Heaven. The guest vocal is from British songstress Francis Barber. This is lush and has that definite stage feel to it…you will find no synth or dance beats here…this is pure theatre. Not a favorite of mine, Barber has a different style of singing but none the less, it manages to have The Boys fingerprints all over it.

Integral—-Also taken from the Fundamental release, this is a remarkable and timely song about the dangers of cyber-space and internet surfing and how everything private is no longer private. Putting the synth and swirling strings back into the place where they belong, this version of the song is much larger and lush than the original version. The chorus of voices only help to drive forth the belief that you have to be careful what you are doing because everybody knows. This is fantastic!!!

Disc Two:

Numb—-Also from the fundamental release, this is set to strings in a very nice way. The original track of this song was very lush and orchestrated, so this is of little surprise. This really is magnificent…..the layers of strings combine with Neil’s vocal to create a really wonderful sedate tale of loneliness and despair. This is stellar.

It’s Alright—-Going back in time once again to the Introspective EP, this is another track that was really written and constructed with orchestration in mind. This plays much like the original with just a bit more of a lush feel to it. Needless to say, the crowd goes wild for this retro look back and the band soaks it in and delivers a majestic performance. This is standout!!!

Luna Park—-Again visiting some of the more sedate material form Fundamental, the orchestration and strings on this song are incredible. This is another song that makes you ache…and that is just from the vocal delivery alone. Neil can sing the hell out of a sad song as well as a floor stomper. This is fantastic!!!

Nothing Has Been Proved—-This is a rather rare song from a movie called Scandal that the Boys recorded with Dusty Springfield. This has the classic underbelly of PSB orchestration. There is no mistaking that this is a Boys track…the low hum, the subtle over the top synth and the magnificent horns all combined with Sylvia on backing vocals is enough to send and PetHead to heaven!!!

Jealousy—-Going back to the Behaviour CD, Robbie Williams appears and makes the cameo on this track. The remarkable thing about this song is that if you did not know better you would think this were Neil. Williams does a great job with inflection and vocal nuances that really adds up to a stellar track. One of my favorites from this release.

Dreaming Of The Queen—-From the Very release, this seldom preformed track seems right at place here as it has lush arrangements and faux orchestration in its original form. With subtle odes to Royalty and Lady Di, you would expect nothing less from a bunch of Brits. This is magical…the arrangement is perfect and the execution is beyond words.

It’s A Sin—-Giving this classic track a masterful reworking, The Boys are never one to let the fans down. This is huge and literally over the top. The violins work like mad, the cellos almost fall over and all the while Neil and Chris laugh at the absurdity of it all. this is brilliant. Neil delivers a vocal that might even be better than the original…this is incredible. If you get a chance to hear this version, check it out…it is pure genius.

Indefinite Leave To Remain—-Another track from the Fundamental release, this is wonderfully arranged and executed. The actual horns are magnificent…you could not ask for more musical emotion than you will find on this track. The song grows and grows in levels of depth until it is a huge lush and tranquil composition that will bring tears to your eyes…this is brilliant!!!

Encore:

West End Girls—-Given a nice reworking to help the inclusion of strings and horns, this is magnificent. The lush feel of the strings that supply the build up to the intro of the song is excellent…the deep bass and the synth line is there, but you are supplied with a much more lush arrangement that satisfies every single part of your being. This has been a wonderful journey that I have not taken often enough…literally brilliant!!!!

****1/2 out of 5

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