Pet Shop Boys announce new tour dates, including Dallas

PETSHOPThe popular gay-fronted group Pet Shop Boys, who have been on a national tour supporting their acclaimed 2013 Electric album, have just announced new stops on the tour, including Dallas.

The duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe will perform at the Majestic Theater on April 15. Tickets will be available starting tomorrow on Ticketmaster.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: French disco duo Alcantaresque trips out with ‘Tormenta’

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Upon receiving the Dropboxed press kit for the “Birth of a new Gay French electro duet,” our curiosity was definitely piqued. Immediately, we thought of the Pet Shop Boys with berets or the pop-gone twins Tegan and Sara — but, ya know, gayer … and with male parts.

What we  got was not quite what was expected.

Alcantaresque poses some major flair in their press kit alone, with a comic-book-style intro detailing the duos back story and genesis. Composed of Little Nemo and “vocal performer” Mr. William out of Paris, the duo then invites us to discover their first single “Tormenta” in an extended version on YouTube, which you can watch after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer Music News: Astralwerks’ Pride download; Pet Shop Boys announce album; Mika’s new video

Monday comes loaded with a hefty edition of QMN along with some free tuneage. Today, music label Astralwerks announced their second annual sampler, Hey Boy, Hey Girl! – Pride 2012 just in time for National Pride. Including tracks by David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia and Air, the eight-track sampler is available as a free download. From Astralwerks:

In recent years Astralwerks has enjoyed numerous successful album campaigns with luminary artists such as Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys, David Guetta, The B-52s and others. Working closely with lifestyle and media contacts in the LGBT community has been a big part of that success. Glenn Mendlinger, Astralwerks General Manager, notes…“we are grateful for the support and love that this community has shown to our artists. This is our way of saying thank you.”

Click here to download.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Tomorrow’ is today

Producer Frankmusik revitalizes Erasure as the group hits its quarter century

Music-1
ON THE EDGE | Pop gods Andy Bell and Vince Clarke made a name with consumable ’80s dance beats, but their latest album introduces their fans to a new phase in the storied career of Erasure.

 

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

It’s hard to believe that a quarter of a century ago, we were introduced to Erasure with Wonderland. “Oh L’Amour” and “Who Needs Love Like That” still stand strong —much more so than anything Erasure has recorded in the past decade.

That changes with the release of their 14th studio album, Tomorrow’s World. Thanks to producer Frankmusik, Erasure regains the excitement of Wonderland and those early releases, but still pushes forward with polish.

Frankmusik and mixer Rob Orton have worked their electronica magic on Lady Gaga and Pet Shop Boys, but their work with Erasure seems, as Frankmusik has dubbed it, a calling.

Without dismissing their classic sound, the album is distinctly Erasure but dusted off and refreshed with a solid modern take, apparent from the start with “Be With You” and “Fill Us with Fire.” Vince Clarke and Andy Bell composed all nine tracks and yes, they run with a dance beat, but Frankmusik and Orton update it with a crispness the band has been waning on.

The two tracks reflect the energy and the beats that flow in and out of the album keeping it consistent and exciting.

Electronica blues may sound like an irony, but they pull it off in “You’ve Got To Save Me Now.” Bell mans up to the challenge with a soulful delivery that’s buoyed by a very modern take on a bluesy beat and lyrics like When everything was better you’d hang on the wrong meanin’ / When love is so demeaning / I got to pick myself up off the floor. This approach pushes

Erasure’s direction without stretching them out of shape into something you can’t recognize.

The first single, “When I Start (To Break it All Down),” mirrors the vibrancy of the first two tracks. Bell delivers a masterful emotional performance here that works with the woeful lovey-dovey lyrics. The song is peppy, but genuinely earnest thanks to Bell.

With so much right here, the album still has a couple of trip-ups. In “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot,” they take on a meditation on celebrity, but the lyrics get a bit corny. Celebs singing about celebs doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but whatever. Forget the lyrics and take in the beat. The music track is so clean and powerful; it’s like taking a bath in techno. The same goes for “I Lose Myself.” Erasure turns in their angry tune, but the clichés add up to a forgettable track. I got rid of that chip on my shoulder / I never thought I’d be tough enough / Ain’t that what your momma told ya are lost but the music is fine. Although, if they really wanted to be angry, throw in a screeching guitar.

My hope is “Then I Go Twisting” becomes their signature song here as well as in the pantheon of Erasure classics. It’s the loveliest and most fun moment on Tomorrow. In some ways it’s prophetic as Bell sings Sick of this techno monophonic sounds and then later, More of the same stuff / I don’t wanna let you down. They don’t, though the album begins to wind down here. The song deserves two things — great headphones and your attention. Go out, buy some high-end cans and let Bell’s voice, the thumpy bass and crisp keyboards seep into your ears and body. Crappy earbuds won’t cut it for this piece of music euphoria.

Tomorrow’s World puts them back on track to the Erasure we love. Their last few albums we saw Erasure falling into itself losing some of their clever whimsy and energy. The symbiotic relationship between the band and Orton and Frankmusik created a strong album, but recreated the excitement of their early releases.

Welcome back.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Silver foxes

Over a quarter-century, Erasure has grown from pop wunderkinds to senior statesmen

A LOTTA RESPECT º Andy Bell, left, and Vince Clarke of Erasure have earned their places as music legends and queer icons, but look forward with a refreshed sound and tour that hits Dallas on Sunday.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

…………….

ERASURE
With Frankmusik.
House of Blues, 2301 Flora St. Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. $39–$65.
Sold out. Ticketmaster.com

……………..

There is an almost jaw-dropping effect to the idea that it has been 25 years since the world first heard of Erasure. Andy Bell’s distinctly boyish voice was theatrical with the heartbreak and optimism of youth. Vince Clarke joined Bell as a veteran of Yaz and Depeche Mode, but with Erasure came a sense of ebullience those bands never possessed. Bell and Clarke might be pop music’s most perfect marriage.

As music icons, they have actually relinquished control of their upcoming album, Tomorrow’s World, which drops in October. Interestingly, soon after the group marks its 25th year with its 14th studio album, its producer, Frankmusik, will celebrate his 26th birthday.

“It turns out his mum was a huge fan of ours,” Bell laughs.

Being a contemporary of your producer’s parents is the least of Erasure’s concerns. Bringing Frankmusik on board is both a blur and a blessing to Bell. As a producer, he has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Erasure contemporaries Pet Shop Boys, and brings a freshness to Tomorrow’s World that hasn’t been heard in the last decade. Still, the sound is distinctly them.

“Nobody knows quite how it happened, but we had this instinctive feeling about him,” Bell says. “He was championed by our more fanatical fans and they made a really good choice. I don’t know how those straight boys can do it but he’s embraced that synth genre and loves that metrosexual culture.”

When Frankmusik was asked if he was intimidated by working on this album, his appreciation of Erasure is fully relayed.

“No, no. It felt like my calling, it really did. I felt like I needed to make that album — for me and for them,” he told QSyndicate earlier this month.

Both acts are on the road touring together, as if Erasure is somehow passing the pop torch. No need to call this a farewell tour, though: Bell doesn’t feel like they are going away anytime soon.

“You don’t take it for granted at all,” he says. “We’re almost halfway through the American tour, but we are looking forward to the end of this tour, but at the same time we’re loving it. It’s been great fun. It’s a lovely thing to have a great job.”

Erasure has released many gems over the years that have also become signature hits. “Oh L’Amour,” “A Little Respect” and “Chains of Love” are just a sampling of their mark on the industry. But among that huge foundation of songs are some Bell wishes had become bigger hits.

“Sure, you get disappointed when certain ones aren’t played on the radio, but you can’t have that all the time,” he says. “I loved ‘You Surround Me’ and ‘Rock Me Gently’ a lot. Unless we feel strongly about something, then the label chooses. At some point, we have to realize its true worth.”

Erasure comes to the House of Blues Sept. 25 to an already-sold-out venue. Clearly they have not lost their drawing power. Bell says Dallas has always been good to the band despite some of the not-so-approving denizens Texas is sometimes known for.

“We love playing there because we’re have this really great fan base in Dallas and it’s continued over the years,” he says. “I do get fed up with these ‘pray away the gay’ folks who wage warfare on young people. Those closet cases always have their hidden agendas and just take it out on other people.”

After 25 years, it would appear Bell still retains his sass, only now it’s more like a guided missile.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Queer Music News: George Michael to go way gay on new album, but with whom?

The word is out that our favorite former sometimes-Dallasite George Michael is working on an album collaborating with a specific group of musicians. NME reported that “The singer, who is due to tour the UK in the winter with a 41 piece symphonic orchestra, had previously revealed that his next studio album would be made with a collective of gay artists, in an effort to ‘correct the damage’ his recent behavior had caused in ‘letting young gay kids down.’”

Now I’m a fan of Michael, but you know, I was let down too by his behavior and I KNOW his music. Our 19 year-old intern didn’t know much about Michael post-Faith. Come on, George. Us older fans want some of your attention, too.

ANYWAY, with his new vow to work with “either gay or gay friendly artists – possibly unknown ones,” I wondered who would be a good match. Minus bigger queer stars, I went from mid-range down:

  • Uh Huh Her — Sort of like the Pet Shop Boys of the lesbian crowd, this duo has cool pop chops and bring their own brand of sexy to match Michael’s. Vocally, he’d probably own them, but altogether, I’d predict a hit.
  • Big Freedia — I’m not sure if Michael could handle Freedia’s big booty bounce, but it would be fun to see him try to keep up. Michael may be the veteran, but Freedia would shine more.
  • Adam Lambert — This might be an easy call, but I think these two could be phenomenal together. There are enough similarities and differences and each would boost each other to different levels. Lambert’s big but still not huge so I think he’d fit in fine.
  • Diamond Rings — I think Michael could win with Diamond Rings writing his songs. It would bring him to an edgier level. Michael could use that without going overboard and Diamond Rings would know how to do that.
  • Sia — As much as I’d want to say yes to this, I think any collab between them would be a little odd. He’s too polished, she’s too eclectic, but vocally, they could be nice together.

That’s just what I think. Who would you pick?

—  Rich Lopez

A gay in the LIFE

Photographer Tim Hailand’s intimate access to gay musician Jake Shears and Rufus Wainwright makes for racy coffee table decor

Out photographer Tim Hailand gets way behind the velvet rope — heck, he crosses through the bedroom door — with his One Day in the Life of… photography books. His first, 2010’s One Day in the Life of Daniel Radcliffe, tracked the extremely gay-friendly actor from morning (waking up in bed!) till nighttime, but he gets even racier with two books that came out this week, both featuring queer musicians: One Day in the Life of Rufus Wainwright and One Day in the Life of Jake Shears (Hailand Books, $35).

These are coffee table books you might not want sitting out when mom’s bridge club comes over. Both tomes feature Hailand’s intimate black-and-white images of his subjects (Shears is especially open to getting naked in front of the camera) as they prepare for evening concerts, which are documented in full color. Each book’s photos are accompanied by text from the subjects, with Elton John providing an intro and Kylie Minogue an afterword to the Shears book.

Hailand has snapped for dozens of international magazines, chronicling a bevy of queer icons, from U.K. pop gods the Pet Shop Boys and cult artists Gilbert & George to transgender actress Candis Cayne and singer/performer Justin Bond. A portion of the books’ proceeds will go to charities determined by Shears (the Elton John AIDS Foundation) and Wainwright (the Kate McGarrigle Fund).

Hailand talked about his unfettered access, the challenges of shooting 2,000 photos over 14 hours and who’s next in his dream-list of subject.

— Lawrence Ferber
Visit OneDayintheLife.org for more information or to place an order.

Dallas Voice: Can you elaborate on the genesis behind this project and your choice in subjects? Hailand: I’m very much inspired by great performers — those who seem to be able to do what I can’t do. After shooting Jake Shears for V Man five years ago, I decided to expand upon this “one-day-long” portrait concept and use it for my own work. Dan Radcliffe is a friend, and the book arose out of our friendship. As a person, Dan is incredibly charismatic and super smart — wise beyond his years. He’s also very curious, as most smart people tend to be. Rufus and Jake have been friends of mine for quite some time, and I’ve been photographing them over the years both onstage and off. I love their work — Scissor Sisters’ Night Work and Rufus’ All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu were my favorite records of 2010 — and they just seemed the next natural choices as book subjects.

Did either of the guys dictate rules as far as what you could and couldn’t shoot? Clearly Jake was pretty uninhibited — we see a lot of his butt. The books are portraits of each subject, of their personalities. No real rules were set up, but I’m always sensitive to and respectful of any subject’s sense of self and what I perceive to be their boundaries.

Did you always plan to shoot on the day of a concert or did you consider another occasion? We wanted to choose a day that has a creative crescendo, that captures the height of their creativity. That’s why the book moves into color at that “high creative” point of the day. They’re all performers, so we wanted to capture what they do best.

What was the biggest challenge as far as shooting Rufus’ day? Shooting one person for 14 hours is demanding in itself — staying both focused and flexible at the same time, going with the flow, and capturing what I perceive to be the rhythm of that particular person’s day. It’s both an exhilarating and exhausting process, as it requires much psychic energy, but I’m very pleased with the end results.

ALL  ACCESS PASS | Queer photographer Tim Hailand, center, with subjects Jake Shears, left, and Rufus Wainwright.

How many shots did you take of each subject? Did any photos that you loved not make it into the books? Probably somewhere around 2,000. In editing the book, I chose images that best told the story of that subject, of that day. I think my favorite images made it into each book, although there are a few that probably stand on their own.

Does being queer yourself somehow affect your choices in subjects or what you draw out of them? It’s funny you should ask, as I recently met with a heterosexual wrestling coach who’s a big advocate of LGBT acceptance, and in looking at my photos, I asked him if one could detect the “queer gaze” of the photographer. He didn’t think so. I think I photograph those that I’m attracted to, sometimes sexually, sometimes in terms of inspiration. I’m interested in those who occupy the space in between — those who are a bit of an outsider to mainstream culture, but are ultimately the true creators.

Who else is on your wish list for future One Day subjects? The next confirmed subject is theater director Robert Wilson. I’ll be documenting his new opera, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, in July, which will also feature Marina Abramovic, Antony Hegarty [of Antony and The Johnsons] and Willem Dafoe. I’m very excited about that project! Kylie Minogue lent her words to Jake Shears’ book, and I’d like to make a book with her, so I’m working on that possibility now. I’d also like to do a book with Lady Gaga, Marc Jacobs, David Bowie and heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko. I already shot a day with Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas [who came out in 2009].

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

What has he done to deserve this?

Music director Adam Wright glams Uptown Players’ Pet Shop Boys musical

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

WEST END GAYS | ‘Closer to Heaven’ explores the dark world of gay ’80s  London through the music of the Pet Shop Boys.  (Photo courtesy  Mike Morgan)
WEST END GAYS | ‘Closer to Heaven’ explores the dark world of gay ’80s London through the music of the Pet Shop Boys. (Photo courtesy Mike Morgan)

CLOSER TO HEAVEN
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Oct. 1–24. $30–$40.
UptownPlayers.org

………………………………………..

Mention the Pet Shop Boys and what comes to mind is techno-pop — hardly the stuff of musical theater. But when Uptown Players opens Closer To Heaven Friday, that mindset will change. The company is producing the sole stage venture by the band, which comes with the same tone as their albums. And that means the production’s musical director, Adam Wright — whose background is in classical and jazz music — is doing some major gear-shifting.

“We had to reconstruct a lot of the music,” he says. “The music that was sent with the materials had just two parts and not a lot to go off of.”

His job might have gone easier if Wright were in communication with the Pet Shop Boys … or if he was already a fan.

“The extent of my communication with them was through their Twitter updates,” he says. “I’d love to learn more about how they program and write. I wasn’t as much a fan as some of the people in the cast. My parents did buy me the Liza Minnelli album Results they produced. I’m certainly more of a fan now after working on this.”

The subject of the musical is perhaps more relatable to Wright. Set in gay London in the 1980s, it’s a dark show with racy queer content he can appreciate. But the task of turning that vibe into a musical theater idiom was a challenge.

Wright had only the original London cast recording to work from, which is dominated by the Pet Shop Boys electronica sound, which he orchestrated for a six-man band to offer a live concert experience. His priority, however, was staying true to the songs PSB wrote.

“With electric drums and two keyboards, we can mimic some of that techno sound,” he says. “There are some guitar moments. It’s really intricate programming and having the band makes it easier and way less complicated.”

His musicians will not only recreate the dance beats, but also meld them in accord with choreography and plot — and PSB’s signature style.

“There is a lot more going on in the songs than you think, so it was pretty daunting,” he says. “Normally with a live band, embellishments are added, but we had to stick to the appropriate style. Even the minimal songs have a repetitive, dance-y nature.”

All that required a close collaboration between Wright, director Bruce Coleman and choreographer John de los Santos. Wright especially sympathized with the challenge de los Santos faced of balancing fluid and narrative movement against Wright’s job to keep the proper but continuous beat of the music — and to primarily keep the audience interested.

“There have been ups and downs in this creative process,” he says. “I’ve certainly felt overwhelmed, but I enjoy the challenge doing new things. That motivates me even if I have to pace in a circle for an hour until it comes to me.”

With weeks of preparation and arranging, Wright’s work still hadn’t clicked with him until Uptown began running the full show in rehearsals. After seeing it as one cohesive piece, he settled and relieved some of his stress going in.

“At that point, it felt possible and easy,” he says. Now he’s more concerned if the audience will be fans: Many out-of-towners are flying in especially for the show, which makes its North American debut — but Uptown knows this is difficult material. The litmus test will be opening night.

“I know some expect a certain kind of music in theater, but the nice thing is the show starts with a bang and they’ll know right away what they are in for. “

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Senior class

Gay director John De Los Santos keeps his elders in line in his annual ‘Senior Follies’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

choreographer John de los Santos
SANTOS GOLD | If a hip goes out, choreographer John de los Santos is ready to jump in.

SENIOR FOLLIES
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
Sept. 3–5. $10–$50.
SeniorFollies.com.

You’re never too old to tap dance.
While that’s not the official mantra of the Spectacular Senior Follies 2010, it should be. The singing, dancing, variety extravaganza from producer Mark Carroll is back and as choreographer John de los Santos has learned in his second year on the show, age is just a number for the over-55 set.
“Botox has been very kind to them,” he jokes.

De los Santos, whose choreography credits include hits for Uptown Players, the Fort Worth Opera and last year, Carmen at the Kennedy Center for the Washington National Opera, has had to learn to quickly switch gears when juggling shows simultaneously. By day, he’s working on the U.S. premiere of the Pet Shop Boys’ Closer to Heaven for Uptown Players and by night, the Senior Follies, which opens this weekend.

“I’m going from 18-year-olds to 88-year-olds,” he laughs.

His oldest cast member is a spry 92. He says that working with the seniors is great because not only do they have lots of life experience and wisdom to share, they’re happy to be performing again.

“Most of them had stage experience. A few of them were in vaudeville or burlesque back in the day, but they all have different backgrounds,” he says. “Some were tap dancers who are singing now. Some were cabaret singers who are now doing complicated staging. We wouldn’t have cast them if they didn’t already have some experience.”

But choreographing an aging cast does have its challenges. The young whippersnapper has to keep his cool when dealing with all this experience — and personality.

“You just have to be very, very patient and optimistic all the time,” he says. “The minute you get frustrated or impatient, they just shut off. I have to keep a smile on my face and try to make them laugh.”

But de los Santos keeps a trick up his sleeve.

“It’s funny because the gayer I act, the more they like me,” he laughs before breaking into a mock old lady voice, “I’ve got a grandson that’s just like you!”

The show, which is similar in style to the legendary Ziegfeld Follies, features standards from the ’30s and ’40s, just a tad before 29-year-old de los Santos’ time. But that isn’t even an issue.

“I’ve done a lot of shows from pretty much every period, so I’ve kind of gotten used to it,” he says. “I did a lot of show choir when I was younger. Part of the reason they hired me in the first place is because I know a lot of this material already.”

The finale of the show is one of the biggest numbers de los Santos has to stage, and it’s the one the Senior Follies is perhaps most famous for: a performance by 12 showgirls ranging in age from 55 to 84.

“Some of the gams on these women are to die for,” he says. “They maintain pretty well.”

But for now, he’s just got to get through opening night to be able to relax a little. Even then, there are always unknowns that could pop up when working with seniors. What if someone breaks a hip during a dance number?

“I’ve already planned for that. I’m gonna don a wig, grab a walker and I’ll just do it. I’m sure a lot of people would love to see that.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Uptown Players announces its 2011 season

On Tuesday night, Uptown Players hosted a nice turnout at the Kalita Humphreys Theater where they announced the roster for their 2011 season. They held off on announcing one production due to contractual reasons, but if it fits in with the rest, it should make quite a season — especially for the LGBT community. Joining Players producers Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch onstage was the cast of the upcoming show Closer to Heaven, the Pet Shop Boys musical which opens Oct. 1.

• Uptown Players will start the season with Thank You For Being a Friend, The Musical, a Golden Girls parody by Nick Brennan. Expect camp overdrive as the “women” aren’t too thrilled about a certain gay celebrity moving in next door. Who knew Lance Bass could be such a problem? The show runs Feb. 4–27 at the Rose Room inside Station 4.

• As part of the upcoming Foote Festival celebrating playwright Horton Foote, Uptown Players joins in with the regional premiere of his Pulitzer prize winning play, Young Man from Atlanta. The show runs April 1–17 at the Kalita.

• UP brings back Broadway Our Way in which local actors switch-hit showtunes. Men sing the women’s parts, vice versa and it’s a gay ol’ time. BOW runs May 6–15.

• The Twilight Zone theme played when they didn‘t announce their next show, which will run June 10–July 2. We know it’s a musical at least, but the official announcement will be made Feb.1.

• Victor/Victoria, the musical based on the Julie Andrews/James Garner 1982 film, will run July 29–Aug. 2.

• Personally, I thought their announcement of the Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival was the most exciting. The fest will feature cabaret sets, performances and plays with the musical Crazy, Just Like Me by Louis Sacco and Drew Gasparini as the centerpiece. The fest coincides with Dallas Pride and runs Sep. 9–17. The full schedule will also be announced Feb. 1.

• Finishing off the season will be The Temperamentals, a new play by Jon Marans which opened this year off-Broadway. The site notes that the play “‘tells the story of two men – the communist Harry Hay and the Viennese refugee and designer Rudi Gernreich — as they fall in love while building the first gay rights organization in the pre-Stonewall United States.”

—  Rich Lopez