"Paul Oakenfold. New Order. Pet Shop Boys. Minneapolis, what have you done to deserve this?" Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant sarcastically asked a full house Sunday night at the Armory in Minneapolis.
Well, we sent the Minnesota Vikings across the pond to play the New Orleans Saints Sunday, and they gave London a dramatic game of American football.
What did Tennant and the lineup of veteran British musicians do for Minneapolis in return? They delivered a satisfyingly nostalgic and invigorating evening of mostly 1980s British dance music in a venue known for presenting contemporary electronic dance music acts.
On their Unity Tour, Pet Shop Boys and New Order are each playing 90 minutes and taking turns as headliners, with Oakenfold as the opener and intermission DJ.
As always, Tennant and partner Chris Lowe, the keyboardist, were delightfully arty purveyors of their pop-dance music. Their presentation had visual themes, whether it was the two of them performing under separate streetlights or their series of outfits of black and white. Once a video screen lifted, the duo's three other musicians were revealed, accompanied by constantly moving video images on various screens.
Never known for his dynamic stage presence, Tennant, 68, a reserved former music journalist, animated his reverb-boosted voice with arm and hand gestures. But Pet Shop Boys music is really about the buoyant melodies and incessant beats that seduce you into a feeling of unfettered freedom.
PSB's biggest hit, 1984's "West End Girls," was marred by distorted bass played by Lowe on keyboards. But there was no arguing with two 1987 tunes — the explosive, swirling "It's a Sin" and "Heart," which built to a banger — and 2019's "Dreamland," a darker-toned change of pace.
Closing the four-hour program at the Armory, New Order offered post-punk dance-rock from throughout its career, including two tunes from Joy Division, the group from which it spawned after the 1980 suicide of frontman Ian Curtis.
On Sunday, New Order singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner, 66, looked like a bespectacled accountant donning T-shirt, jeans and sneakers for his weekend hobby band. Moreover, his dad dance moves might have made his children cringe. But New Order's music kept a mostly over-40 crowd dancing to the driving disco-rock, complemented by strobes, lasers, lights in sync with the beat and a barrage of cool video images.
Highlights were the 1980s nuggets, the surging "Sub-culture" and the emphatic and urgent "Temptation," along with 2015's unrelentingly forceful "Restless," 2020's contagious dance-pop "Be a Rebel" and, of course, the encore of Joy Division's 1980 hit "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
Oakenfold, a celebrated DJ and remixer, kept the crowd partying with a blend of hits by Rihanna and Technotronic along with club gems by Acraze and DJ Dai, though he somehow managed to spin Prince's "When Doves Cry" twice back-to-back before segueing into the Purple One's "Kiss" as his finale.