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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Jeff Moehlis

Jeff Moehlis: The Pet Shop Boys Head West

Concert brings marvelous music and a stellar stage production to the Majestic Ventura Theater

By Jeff Moehlis, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

One thing was clear about the Pet Shop Boys concert last Friday at the Majestic Ventura Theater — the creative director/set designer Es Devlin deserves a raise. The visuals, lasers, costumes, flashing lights, backdrops and dancing minotaurs were truly outstanding.

Yep, you read that right — dancing minotaurs, with shaggy mullets no less. Maybe they can return to the area for our next Summer Solstice parade — they would fit right in.

But let's not forget the music. The Pet Shop Boys — singer Neil Tennant and synth master Chris Lowe — have been cranking out infectious dance-pop for decades now, since before today's EDM-loving kids were even born.

There were lots of well-known early Pet Shop Boys songs on the program, with corresponding cool stage elements, including "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" (for which Tennant and Lowe had on what the fashion world calls "wearable sculptures"), "Suburbia" and their breakthrough hit "West End Girls" (both with dancing minotaurs), "It's a Sin" (with a brilliant laser light show), "Always On My Mind" (which ended with graffiti raining on the audience) and "Go West" (for which the dancers were on stilts, including on their arms).

Lesser-known songs were also great fun, and had their own unique and wonderful stage enhancements: for "Leaving," Tennant and Lowe wore (functional) disco ball headwear; for "Love Etc." they were positioned so that images of writhing bodies on a bed appeared to be their own; and for "Domino Dancing," there were dancers with rectangular gold or silver "fur." There were also several songs from their newest album, 2013's fittingly-named Electric, that hold up nicely with the rest of their catalog.

The Pet Shop Boys tell people to "Go West," and it's our good fortune that they took their own advice, playing at Coachella and piggybacking the Ventura show, a show full of amazing music and stage production, onto their trip.

And why wouldn't you? "Life is peaceful there," "the skies are blue" and there's even "sun in wintertime."


One More Chance / A Face Like That
Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)
Love Is a Bourgeois Construct
I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing
I'm Not Scared
West End Girls
Love Etc.
I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)
It's a Sin
Domino Dancing
Always on My Mind


Go West

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, The opinions expressed are his own.

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