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Music REview

Artful presentation, appealing tunes from Pet Shop Boys

As fans filed into the House of Blues early Saturday evening, an employee in the lobby hawked an upcoming show: “Boy George, next Saturday, here at the House of Blues — he’s not dead!”

That kind of sales pitch would be unnecessary for the sold-out Pet Shop Boys show. True, the gay-themed, transatlantic pop scene that made both the Pet Shop Boys and Boy George famous in the 1980s is very much dead and gone. But for three decades, the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant (vocals) and Chris Lowe (keyboards) have maintained a greater degree of commercial and critical success than almost any of their peers, whatever the genre.

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As on previous tours, the performance highlighted the key to the group’s longevity: daring high-art imagination married to inviting electronic dance music. The show opened with lively video projections on a scrim through which the duo could be seen dimly, dressed in huge dunce caps and giant black padded suits, performing the 1987 favorite “One More Chance” spliced with “A Face Like That” from 2012’s overlooked “Elysium.” On the second song, the 1986 top-10 hit “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” the scrim dropped to the floor, revealing Tennant impassively singing at stage left and Lowe buried behind a bank of keyboards on stage right, with huge video projections providing the real action in between.

The night proceeded like that, with shifts in costume or scenery every three or four numbers as the band veered from old hits (“West End Girls,” naturally) to obscure recent bonus tracks (“Fugitive”). After a few songs, a pair of dancers appeared, their heads covered throughout the show by various masks, including giant bull skulls with flowing rock-star hair.

The spectacle was more budget conscious than on previous tours, but the normally reserved Tennant made up for it by reaching out with canned patter and several rousing sing-alongs. The band closed with “Vocal,” the final cut from its celebrated new album, “Electric.” As Tennant noted, it “kind of summed up the night”: “Everyone I hoped would be around/Has come along.”

Franklin Soults can be reached at fsoults@gmail.com
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