The mass-media trilogy

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The mass-media trilogy

#1 Post by Axonthenet »

I was reading the Discovery booklet just a few minutes ago and I didn’t remember how Neil explained the previous tours. He said MCMLXXXIX was an attempt to do a film multi-media show while Performance was a theatrical performance. From this perspective, Discovery seems to be the stage version of a TV show and the decision to have it filmed by a tv crew seems to have sense, aside from economic reasons. I don’t know if they thought about it , but I like to think of the three shows as a trilogy about media… any thoughts?

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Re: The mass-media trilogy

#2 Post by retrofuturist »


I think that with the caged dancers etc. it's more of a prelude to Closer To Heaven - bringing the nightclub to the stage.

Being an Aussie, Discovery was my first live Pet Shop Boys concert and I admit to being disappointed that we didn't get the royal treatment of a MCMLXXXIX and Performance style show like most parts of the world. Instead we got something cheaper and more libertine.

I was happy to see them live of course, although the videos of MCMLXXXIX and Performance, nevermind the brilliance of the Very videos, had set certain expectations that they didn't meet. Rather than being the end of the past era, it was actually more the beginning of the next chapter, with Paninaro 95, Bilingual, Nightlife and as referenced above, Closer To Heaven.

Retro. :)

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Re: The mass-media trilogy

#3 Post by nervousboy »

MCMLXXXIX was all about proving they could cut it live while Performance was the one off, spend spend spend theatrical event they had always wanted to do and now could afford to and make a loss. Discovery was really about having a great time on stage doing the 'hits' something they continue to do although with different staging. But the storyline performance from 1991 has gone.

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Re: The mass-media trilogy

#4 Post by DopeFiend »

I like this idea of this observation, but I can't say I agree with it.
"Discovery seems to be the stage version of a TV show" how so?
I was drinking a lot when I watched it last (amazing experience) but I don't recall any TV show-esque theme or setting to it. Just Neil & Chris dressing in the costumes for their image at the time, a handful of unexpected mash-up covers, the acoustic bit in the middle, and the very sexual dancers (which is fitting for Brazil, from what I've heard about their TV shows).

As for MCMLXXXIX and Performance. I see Performance as a do-over for the first attempt.
MCMLXXXIX was only just a small handful of gigs. It was only released in an abridged form, hasn't been released on DVD which to me shows a lack of confidence in it, and a lot of the elements of MCMLXXXIX are reused in Performance.

Performance is what the 1989 tour meant to be. It's totally set apart from every other PSB tour.
You could define the first three as a trilogy, but really MCMLXXXIX was in like 2 places. Hong Kong and London. The film is poor quality, the costumes were cheap. Big sections of the gig were edited out for the tape, presumably not worth watching such as the egregious saxophone solo. (Though I still want them to remaster and release the full length concert in 4k UHD)
I mean Sound Of The Atom Splitting, what were they thinking...... Chris wearing a bike helmet. The wailing backing singers...
Sorry I'm ranting. Anyway as above I see it as a practise for the next tour which YES did use a different primary medium in comparison but both are fairly comparable in terms of style and staging, in my opinion. Performance just had more people and was a bit elaborate.
An observation I've made only a bit more recently, Performance was actually imperfect because there is too much for the viewer to take in at a time. Neil says this somewhere, I don't remember where, but he points out the fact there are so many things happening that the audience viewer can't pay attention to it all. Me as a viewer with the DVD, we're watching with fixed camera angles and I can only imagine what else is happening while the camera is focused on 1 area. Plus the DVD is quite re-watchable with what happens, it still feels fresh because it's not just 2 dancers on stage but a range of dancers and costumes. It's good, but in practical terms too complex. Even the video editors missed essential parts of the performance, like Chris smashing the faux glass bottle during W E G. Too much happening.

I agree with above poster RE Discovery. Like Neil says, it's just a party gig performance. Here are the songs, let's enjoy them. I don't see them as trying to prove anything in particular with this one (like I do with most PSB tours). "Discovery" Neil mentions is because they intentionally chose to tour in places they haven't been, hence discovering them. And of course the whole next album, Bilingual is a result of what they were exposed to in Latin America so it all flows perfectly.

I realise my post is getting long, but I want to also add the fact the following tour, Nightlife is also a different style you could argue is another media medium. "Montage" is a montage of superimposed multi-angle effects, visualisers, and generic unrelated footage. Unfortunately it's extremely dated. But in respect of each tour being a different type of medium it's definitely another style and representation.

Lastly, and I swear this is the last point. They mention in the Discovery booklet that they intentionally ripped off the previous tours because people wouldn't have seen the last ones. This is a whole pre-internet era. Like retrofuturist says it's the first time for fans to see PSB live. So in my view it's not a trio of tours but a revised model with an assumption that the previous is essentially erased to the audience goers.
They have sort of done this in the Super tour compared to Electric, but I think it's only in retrospect that there are 3 distinct original tours one after the other. (I write this as a fan born after most of what I'm writing about has happened)

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Re: The mass-media trilogy

#5 Post by TallThinMan »

Performance is what MCMLXXXIX wanted to be when it grew up.

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Re: The mass-media trilogy

#6 Post by Propertius »

They’d first thought about touring in 1986 with a “scratch video” multimedia component. They decided against it. (From the sound of it, it might have been like U2’s ZooTV some five or six years later.)

I agree with those who see MCMLXXXIX as a precursor to Performance. The point of Discovery was simply to be far less complex and expensive compared to Performance. The cost, the logistics, and the often over-analyzing and irritating critical response to Performance left the Pets ready to leave the whole thing behind. A simpler show touring places they hadn’t visited with Performance was a way to see if they might find touring less nerve-wracking if done differently.

Having been reading up on Bowie’s Glass Spider and Sound + Vision tours shortly before the release of the Discovery DVD this year, I was reminded of just how much rock-critic posturing and anxiety there was at the end of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s about real “live” music — for years MTV and European programs that called for miming has made a farce out of the ‘70s live rock ethos, and now samplers meant that anything could be reproduced live, as if it were all on tape. Maybe even the vocals! If Milli Vanilli thought they could get away with it, whose else might be doing so?

The relative rarity of shows as theatrical as Performance at this point (there were precedents, but only a half-dozen or so, if that) and rage fact that PSB were an electronic act made them especially choice targets for some critics. Even friendly ones could be backhanded (“you’ve both made such a little go a very long way”). All that bullshit could be forgotten about in Latin America.

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