Released - 2006
The Pet Shop Boys recorded their first live album at a special one-off concert at the Mermaid Theatre in London on May 8, 2006 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of their first big hit, "West End Girls." They were supported by the BBC Concert Orchestra and a slew of renowned guest starsincluding Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, Lol Creme, Steve Lipson, Rufus Wainwright, Frances Barber, and Robbie Williamson both instruments and vocals. (If you don't count their Battleship Potemkin dates, this was their first full-length live show with orchestral accompaniment.) Trevor Horn also served as musical director for the evening. The recording was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 later that same month. Its very positive reception and superb quality helped ensure its subsequent release on CD.
The title of the album was originally announced as the extremely straightforward Concert, but only five or six weeks before release came the announcement that its title had been changed to Concreteas puzzling a choice as the first title was unimaginative. Neil and Chris had reportedly preferred Concrete from the start, anyway. No explanation has been offered at this time, although there are a number of possibilities:
- "Concrete" is a near-anagram of "concert," perhaps making it something of an in-joke.
- It could be a reference to the concert venue, the Mermaid Theatre, which one of my site visitors has described as an "ugly 1959 brick-and-concrete structure architecturally unappealing." (The album artwork includes several photos of concrete portions of the building.)
- The word "concrete" can refer to a specific instance, particularly something perceptible by the sensessuch as a concert.
- It may possibly refer to musique concrèteFrench for "concrete music"a term used (according to Wikipedia) to describe the "practice of simply making music out of 'real world' sounds, or sounds other than those made by musical instruments. Musique concrète strives to begin with the 'concrete' sounds, experiment with them, and abstract them into musical compositions." While Chris and Neil rarely if ever engage in this type of composing, they've certainly used "concrete sounds" in their recordings from time to time, such as the opening street ambiance of "West End Girls" that, for all intents and purposes, introduced the Pet Shop Boys to the world.
- Finally, another of my site visitors has suggested that the Boys may have considered this concert and album as a means of "solidifying" their status as "something more than just a pop group, but a musical act with a legacy and whose ambitions have been fully (almost?) realized." In other words, it was a "concrete" means of asserting themselves as a "solid" artists.
It may be any or all of these things, a pun working at multiple levels. Whatever the case, fans greatly appreciated this special recording of the Pet Shop Boys at the top of their game as live performers. It's unfortunate, however, that Neil and Chris didn't see fit to record this show on video for DVD release, which surely have made it an even greater testament to their talents.
Although the Concrete CD was released in the United Kingdom in 2006, it didn't see an official U.S. release for another five years—not until 2011—at which time it failed to crack the U.S. album chart. That's hardly a surprise since, after all, nearly everyone inclined to buy a PSB live album at all would have already bought it as an import.
Note: The following links will take you to the sections for the albums on which each song originally appeared. Please keep this in mind for "navigational" purposes.
- Left to My Own Devices
- Based on the Introspective album version, arranged for orchestra by
- Based on the Introspective album version, arranged for orchestra by Richard Niles.
- Employs the orchestral arrangement by film composer Angelo Badalamenti used in the Liza Minnelli rendition on Results.
- You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
Sodom and Gomorrah Show
- Orchestral arrangement by Anne Dudley and opening narration by Frances Barber.
- Lead vocal by Rufus Wainwright, with an orchestral arrangement by the evening's orchestral conductor Nick Ingman.
- After All
- Friendly Fire
- Lead vocal by Frances Barber, who performed it every night in the role of Billie Trix in the Boys' stage musical Closer to Heaven; arrangement by Craig Armstrong.
- Based on the Trevor Horn single mix.
- Another arrangement by the show's orchestral conductor Nick Ingman.
Has Been Proved
- Based on the Dusty Springfield rendition arranged by Angelo Badalamenti.
- Lead vocal by Robbie Williams, based on the Extended Mix, complete with its opening quotation by Neil from Shakespeare's Othello.
of the Queen
- Aside from some of the guest vocalists, this was perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise of the eveninga classic that up to this point the Pet Shop Boys had rarely if ever performed live. Subsequently it became part of their standard setlist for the Fundamental tour.
- It's a Sin
- Indefinite Leave to Remain
- The first of two encore songs.
- Flowing right out of the preceding number, the Boys' first and biggest hit appears here in a slightly new arrangement by Anne Dudleysomewhat jazzy with a bit of "house" influence, with rhythmic piano punctuations. A nice way to breathe new life into an old, familiar friend without much risk of alienating those who liked it just the way it was.
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