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Time Out – Creamfields 1999

Double Cream

They once vowed never to play live, but this summer pop icons the Pet Shop Boys are headlining the dance extravaganza Creamfields. What have they done to deserve this?

When Chris Lowe looks back upon his life, it’s always with a sense of… slight bewilderment. “Where have the years gone?” guffaws the Pet Shop Boys keyboardist. No wonder Chris is puzzled; it’s hard to conceive that the Pet Shop Boys’ success spans over a decade, because they’ve never grown predictable in this time. Renowned for miserabilist pop and sullen poses, vocalist Neil Tennant and Chris are in fact affable characters. Theirs has been a career of defiant contradiction and sweeping statements. In the ’80s, they infamously vowed never to play live. Several tours later, including a fortnight’s run at London’s Savoy Theatre in summer ’97, they played northern European festivals to recoup the expense of their Savoy shows. This included headlining Denmark’s massive Roskilde rock event, “And surprise surprise, we enjoyed it” says Chris. “Performing in front of 97,000 people gives you a bit of a buzz, actually, heheheh!”

Although Chris has always expressed a particular passion for dance, and they’ll be performing alongside many DJ’s who’ve remixed their records, he agrees that the Pet Shop Boys seem unusual headliners for Creamfields. “People don’t think of us as a club act”, he says. “That’s why I don’t think it’s worth just doing our dancey stuff. If you’re in that sort of situation, and it’s late at night, you want to dance to songs you’re familiar with. I don’t think people would want to see us do 12-inch dub remixes for hours, although we could do that. I love Cream, though, it’s one of my favourite clubs. Clubs up north are often better; people just let their hair down easier. I hope Creamfields is gonna be a party atmosphere, ‘cos one thing I’ve got against club music at the moment, is that the entertainment seems to have gone out of it quite a lot. So much seriousness is spoken about, it’s almost like it’s rock music.” Will the Pet Shop Boys be turning towards ‘traditional’ rock as a reaction, then? “Nooo, it’s just that for me, growing up, disco music was just to have a good time to.”

Previous PSB concerts have been strikingly theatrical affairs (their 1991 tour was entitled ‘Performance’), with specially commissioned visuals from Derek Jarman and Sam Taylor-Wood. “But I think at festivals, performing the songs is the most important factor, really.” Chris argues, before vacillating, “Actually, at Roskilde, we had our dancer come on dressed as a woman, and take his clothes off and turn into a man, I suppose. But I’m not stripping down to my underpants and dancing again. It’s undignified.”

Plenty of favourite hits are guaranteed from the duo’s vast discography, but Creamfields should also showcase material from their forthcoming new LP, featuring collaborations with Kylie and acclaimed DJ’s/producers David Morales, Rollo (the enigmatic force behind Faithless) and Craig Armstrong. “Actually, I’ve been told NOT TO TALK ABOUT THE ALBUM, hahahah!” says Chris, when I ask whether Kylie will join them on-stage. “Well… there’s a couple of new tracks we’d really like to play live. There’s a rock track, which is really good. We’ve recorded it with Rollo, so it’s kind of anthemic. And then there’s a sort of hands-in-the-air Ibizan type of thing, which should go down well.”

Chris sounds breezily confident about their upcoming set. “Well, I quite like it when things go wrong. Neil’s different; he’s got such a lot to remember – all those words; I don’t know how he can do it! He’s a considerably less experienced festival punter, though, so Creamfields poses different challenges. When I was growing up, festivals were always regarded as some hippy thing,” he explains. “I’ve only been to V98. Oh, I went to one in Manchester, ‘cos Electronic were playing. Or was it New Order? Anyway, I’m just really looking forward to going in all the tents at Creamfields. I can’t wait to see David Morales; he’s great fun live.”

And with Creamfields being a one day event, there’s no need for Neil and Chris to pack camping apparatus. “Nah, I’m just planning on staying up the whole time.” Sounds like the perfect attitude to me. Next time you see the Pet Shop Boys looking surly in a photo, you can blame the heavy nights.