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WERE it not for the lack of a synthesizer cable in the early 1980s The Pet Shop Boys may never have met. The group’s vocalist Neil Tennant had moved to London from Newcastle to work for Marvel Comics and got into a conversation with programmer Chris Lowe – himself just having relocated from Blackpool – in an electrical shop whilst queuing for that very item. A rather astonishing 25 years later, what allows them to continue making music and pushing boundaries within pop, after releases running into the hundreds, are both the chemistry and dissonances between the two friends musically and personally. Amusingly, a manager of the band early in their career once took Ten- nant to one side and advised him to sack Lowe from the band as he “didn’t really do much”. A few years after that day in the electronics store they embarked on a string of huge hits in the UK and US, outrunning and outlasting other synth-pop duos and groups who they were placed alongside initialy. What later emerged was a unique group with one foot in the club, one in the art gallery and a mind for satire. As with any musical entity that evolves and stays with the times in such a way, the Pet Shop Boys have collaborated with many huge names from the worlds of art, fashion, film, design and music. What has never changed though are the scope and ambitious nature of Lowe’s production and Tennant’s lyrics; pithy, scathing commentaries on contemporary life with cinematic monologue and storytelling, sometimes crossing decades in one song. For what is, in essence, a pop group, PSB make music dealing with the biggest themes of all: life and death, love and loss, money and madness. The visual accompaniment to such songs has always been equal to this scale, from their collaboration with Derek Jarman on their 1989 tour to later videos and album art. As such, their upcoming tour is sure to be a visually lavish concoction of dance, theatre, costume, film projections and of course synthesizers. Although I’m sure someone else sorts out their cables nowadays. GREGG HARMSTON

Pet Shop Boys play Cardiff International Arena, Wed 21 July. Tickets: £30. Info: 029 2022 4488


ON Sat 24 July JLS will take to the stage in Pontypridd for the third year of Ponty’s Big Weekend. Tickets for this day sold out almost immediately and organizers are thrilled at the attention Britain’s favourite new boy band has created. In 2008 JLS entered ubiquitous TV talent show The X Factor and despite being beaten by Alexandra Burke, are one of the most successful products of the competition.

Even before they auditioned for the show, though, the boys gave all their free time to rehearsals, polishing their act at the Dance Attic studios in West Lon- don. They arranged their own photo shoots and paid gigs, which lead to them winning the Urban Music Awards’ Best Unsigned Act gong. The group derived the name JLS from ‘Jack The Lad Swing’ – a composite of their cheeky on- stage persona and New Jack Swing, the (largely US-confined) subgenre of soul which had birthed their favourite boy bands, Jodeci and Boyz II Men. The first two JLS singles, Beat Again and Everybody In Love went to number one in the UK charts; their debut album, released in late 2009, has gone triple platinum. This year has already seen them scoop a Brit award; upcoming single The Club Is Alive arrives at the start of July, in good time for this concert. The supporting cast for Sat 24 are Diana Vickers – another X Factor semi-finalist – and The Score, a transatlantic group comprised of two sets of brothers.

Sun 25 features a free Ponty’s Big Weekend family event featuring classical artist Hayley Westenra – reputedly one of the most talented youngsters Simon Cowell has ever seen – Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Faryl Smith, and G4’s Jonathan Ansell, confirmed to headline. Other performers include James Williams, one of the final 24 from 2008’s X Factor, and Welsh singer-song- writer Daz Edwards. All in all, a very distinctive mix of performers with a wide base of appeal. If you didn’t get tickets, there will still be opportunities over the next few months via local press and radio to win some. CHLOE HUGHES


Ponty’s Big Weekend, Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd, Sat 24 + Sun 25 July. Tickets: free (sold out – check box office for returns). Info: 01443 485934 /

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