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Few bands can bridge the high art/low art divide quite so artfully as the Pet Shop Boys, and few albums document such a skill quite as neatly as Concrete
. A performance recorded at the Mermaid Theatre in London for broadcast on Radio 2, Concrete
lines up some impressive special guests (Robbie Williams, Rufus Wainwright and star producer Trevor Horn, here playing the role of 'musical director' and more humbly, bassist) for a run through a greatest hits set with a couple of surprises along the way. Affairs commence with operatic vocals and a flourish of strings, but it's mere seconds before "Left To My Own Devices" matches sweeping violins to nightclub pulse, Neil Tennant restating the Pet Shop manifesto of "Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat". The between-song introductions might be annoying to the casual listener, but the mix of orchestral and digital works well throughout and the guest spots are exemplary set-pieces spiked with wry humour and genuine pathos. Hear the strings wilt as Rufus Wainwright sings "couldn't get an erection" on the epic "Casanova In Hell", or Robbie Williams sweeping on from side-stage for an earnest run through the first song the Pet Shop Boys ever wrote, "Jealousy". -Louis Pattison