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David Barnard
Pet Shop Boys
Writing Credits:

A true Pet Shop Boys celebration of pop, the concert was filmed in High Definition on November 14th, 2006, in Mexico City at the Auditorio Nacional. Featuring tracks from right across their 25-year career, the DVD also includes behind-the-scenes extra footage filmed in Mexico, picture gallery, audio commentary and a 12-page book written by Pet Shop Boys and featuring photography from the show. The spectacular show was directed by David Barnard whose previous credits include the live concert films of Bjork and Gorillaz.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/24/2007

• Audio Commentary with Pet Shop Boys Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant and Director David Barnard
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Pet Shop Boys: Cubism In Concert (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 5, 2007)

Such is my love of live music that I’ve seen Pet Shop Boys in concert twice – even though I don’t like them. However, my friend Kevin adores them, and his fascination piqued my interest. When I spent 10 days in England back in December 1999, I had a free night so I saw PSB at the Manchester Arena, and I also took Kevin to see them at a local show in DC during October 2006.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the duo’s music, I thought I’d enjoy these shows simply because I like strong visual performances. PSB have a reputation for elaborate concerts so I thought I’d dig the concerts. Alas, I found both to be less than enthralling. The 2005 show was more fun since the 1999 concert was pretty stripped down, but both left me fairly cold.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d give PSB another shot via a DVD called Cubism In Concert. Shot on November 14, 2006 in Mexico City, the 25-song performance offers tunes from across the duo’s long career, though 2006’s Fundamental dominates the set. From that release, we get “God Willing”, “Psychological”, “I’m With Stupid”, “Minimal”, “Integral”, “Numb” and “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show”.

The rest of the tracks span the years. Heading back to their 1986 debut Please, we find “West End Girls”, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money” and “Suburbia”, while 1987’s Actually brings us “Shopping”, “Rent”, “Heart” and “It’s a Sin”. Off of 1988’s Introspective we discover “Left to My Own Devices”, “Always on My Mind” and “Domino Dancing”, and from 1990’s Behaviour we get “So Hard”. “Where the Streets Have No Name”/”Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” accompanied the single for “How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? off of Behavior. “Can You Forgive Her?”, “Go West” and “Dreaming of the Queen” come from 1993’s Very, while "Se a vida é (That's the Way Life Is)" stems from 1996’s Bilingual. The show omits anything from 1999’s Nightlife but throws in “Home and Dry” off of 2002’s Release and “Flamboyant” from 2003’s compilation called PopArt: The Hits.

That varied setlist should make fans happy, and I’d bet that longtime partisans will also get a lot of satisfaction from the show as a whole. Does it work for those of us without as much interest in PSB? Yeah, at least on occasion. This is an enjoyable but inconsistent show.

Cubism presents the same performance I saw a few weeks earlier in DC, and it’s not a concert that allows space for spontaneity. Main vocalist Neil Tennant is the focus of the show. Keyboardist – and sole musician, really – Chris Lowe just stands in front of his set all night, so he doesn’t add anything to the visual side of the performance. Tennant modifies some of his between-song patter to be in Spanish, but otherwise this is a pretty pre-set concert.

Not that I will criticize an act just because they don’t change things every night. After all, I love Madonna’s live shows, and they’re essentially the same on each evening of the tour. However, Madonna is about a million times more engaging as a live performer, so Tennant can’t compare. PSB add a few singers/dancers, and they help bring some spice to the stage, but don’t expect a tremendously involving visual show.

Nonetheless, Cubism has enough happening to keep the viewer interested. It’s not a killer piece, and it falls short of PSB’s more ambitious shows from the past. However, it’s still a fairly well-staged piece.

As I see it, though, two problems emerge. For one, the setlist really drags when it goes with new material. Often fans feel that way, as they’d rather hear the golden oldies than be stuck with the band’s untested newer tracks. In my case, however, I don’t think it should matter since I’m not a fan of PSB. I recognized a handful of songs, but I’m really not that well acquainted with their catalog so I shouldn’t have been affected by the old vs. new battle.

However, throughout the show I could instantly tell the difference between new songs and unfamiliar older tracks. The latter were simply much better than the former. They came across as much more tuneful and engaging, whereas the newer numbers tended to be flat and plodding. The show dragged when we got stuck with more recent songs, and they simply weren’t as good.

David Barnard’s direction doesn’t add anything to the package as either. While he avoids quick-cutting and gimmicks, he also fails to bring much energy to the show. This means the result feels like a cookie-cutter piece of direction as it went from one bland shot to another and lacked any flow. It’s not a poor presentation, but the direction doesn’t give any energy or pizzazz to the program.

This leaves Cubism as a pretty mediocre concert presentation. Of course, how much you enjoy it will clearly depend on how much you like Pet Shop Boys. I find a little disco delight in some of their tunes, but they work best when they stick with tracks from their glory days. The DVD offers a sporadically engaging show that will more entertain established fans; it seems less likely to do much for new partisans.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus C

Pet Shop Boys: Cubism In Concert appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though shot on high-def cameras, I thought the visuals of Cubism seemed inconsistent.

Many of these ups and downs came from sharpness. While a lot of the show looked concise and accurate, more than a few ill-defined sequences emerged. I didn’t think these dominated, but they meant that too much of the program was a little blurry. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, but I detected some light edge haloes at times. Source flaws looked absent, and I saw no issues related to artifacting, noise, or other distractions.

Most of the color variation came from lighting, and they caused some concerns. The hues tended to be a bit heavy and oppressive throughout the show. Since so much of the concert featured these lights, this meant the image was often less defined than I’d like. Blacks were reasonably dark and dense, but shadows could be somewhat tough to discern. Again, that related to the colors, as they left things thick. This was a decent presentation but I must admit the moderate lack of clarity made it a disappointment.

In terms of audio, Cubism worked much better. The DVD presented both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Other than volume variations that made the DTS version significantly louder, the two mixes sounded very similar. The DTS edition may have been a little richer than the Dolby version, but both satisfied.

Cubism featured a fairly ambitious soundfield. While the forward soundstage dominates most concert DVDs, this one opened up to the surrounds with a higher than average level of activity. To be sure, the front channels still played the most important role, but the back speakers reinforced the music in a satisfying way. They offered a moderate amount of unique information and created a nicely involving track. Stereo separation was also very good, as the elements spread clearly across the channels.

Audio quality was solid. Vocals worked fine, as they replicated the desired impressions well. The rest of the track also showed good clarity and a dynamic tone. The instruments remained crisp and vivid during the concert, and bass was very strong. Low-end seemed deep and firm throughout all the tunes. Overall, Cubism offered quite positive audio.

A few extras fill out this set. Of most interest is an audio commentary with Pet Shop Boys Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant and director David Barnard. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They discuss the show’s staging and various influences, the songs, visual elements, the other performers, and a few other connected topics.

Oy, what a dull commentary! Much of the show passes without any information at all, and many times the remarks just relate what we see on-screen. Lowe and Tennant do most of the talking; Barnard tells us next to nothing about directing this kind of concert DVD. Occasionally we do find interesting details such as the technical issue that almost canceled the second half of the show, but usually we get a whole lot of nothing from this boring, uninformative chat.

Next we get a nine-minute and 25-second Behind the Scenes Featurette. In this program, we get notes from Tennant, Lowe and various Mexican PSB fans. We see some photos of the show and the fans as well as travelogue shots from that part of the tour. Tennant and Lowe offer some info about the live performance and playing in Mexico, while the fans tell us how much they love PSB. The praise dominates and this piece doesn’t prove to be especially informative.

A Photo Gallery gives us a mix of concert shots. These come as a two-minute and 32-second running montage, not as a collection of frames. They’re nice pictures from the show but not anything exceptional.

Finally, the package features a 12-page Booklet. My review copy didn’t include this, but the press release indicates that it shots photos from the concert and offers notes from Tennant and Lowe.

More than 20 years after their debut album, Pet Shop Boys manage to maintain a good niche audience. That crowd should enjoy Cubism In Concert, as it offers a competent view of their current stage show. It seems unlikely to win over new fans, though. The DVD provides excellent audio but picture quality is somewhat lackluster and the extras disappoint. I recommend this one for serious PSB fans but can’t push it for those with a lesser interest in them.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7142 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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