Thursday, 24 July 2014

He dreamed of machines

Oh. Deep. Joy.

Last night, I was treated (by our good friend Paul, for my forthcoming birthday) to a most incredible evening - not just "a Prom" (in the glittering Royal Albert Hall), but THE Pet Shop Boys' Prom!

Opening with a heavily melodramatic orchestration of several PSB chart hits - Overture to Performance, masterminded by arranger Richard Niles - we knew we were in for a real treat. And when none other than the legendary Chrissie Hynde took to the stage to perform the next piece (“Four songs in A minor”), we were thrilled. As described admirably by Adam Sweeting in The Telegraph:
Chrissie Hynde teetered to the microphone in white blouse and tails, skinny jeans and high heels, like some sort of Nashville gunslinger.

She added the right amount of frayed world-weariness to Badalementi’s mooching, indigo-tinted arrangements. Love Is a Catastrophe felt like the aural equivalent of a bourbon hangover, while her duet with Tennant on Rent was piercingly bittersweet.

I couldn't help but think, however, that when it comes to the clipped, lyrical songs of Messrs Tennant and Lowe, a legendary diva with somewhat clearer diction might have worked a bit better.

It was a remarkable experience, nonetheless - but nothing compared to what was to follow!

For this was the world première of the Boys' classical meisterwerk - a tribute to the pioneering computer genius Alan Turing - A Man From the Future. Part Chris-Lowe-synthesiser-odyssey, part orchestral symphony, with narration by Oscar-winner Juliet Stephenson, the piece told the tragic story of the gay outsider genius from boyhood love and loss, through his amazing contribution to wartime code-breaking, to his persecution, death and eventual belated pardon by the establishment.

Mr Tennant stood in the sidelines as a part of the chorus, while the BBC Concert Orchestra (conducted by Dominic Wheeler) and Miss Stephenson took centre stage (the latter, bizarrely suspended in a commentary box in the proscenium). As the story unfolded, so the music mirrored the emotions - and throughout, He Dreamed of Machines...

The whole eight-part composition was an utterly beautiful feast for the senses (and, given its subject matter, an emotional journey through a life ruined by bigotry).

I feel privileged to have experienced it.

A Man From the Future on the Pet Shop Boys website.


  1. It does sound like a truly wonderful night, every review I've read has said the same thing

    1. Oh, my dear - it was truly magnificent! Jx


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