If pop music is the ultimate modern art form, Pet Shop Boys are arguably its finest purveyors.
The beauty of the electronic duo’s body of work is that it has aged more gracefully than that of most of their rock contemporaries. Conceivably, they could still be performing in 20 years - singer Neil Tennant, now 60, flamboyant and engaging; keyboardist Chris Lowe reluctant, static.
Unpredictable as ever, in the last month or so alone the group have become the first pop act to appear on Radio 4 soap The Archers, and made their Proms debut with a tribute to computing scientist Alan Turing, before embarking on this UK tour, including two nights at the Sage.
The first couple of songs are performed with the duo behind a transparent curtain and the visuals throughout are entrancing - green lasers, confetti, minotaur-headed dancers. They go on to adopt a variety of costumes - variously bright orange outfits, long hats, dark glasses, heavy jackets.
Their recent albums stand up well to earlier work - 2006’s Fundamental is arguably their strongest collection of songs - but this is a hit-centric set, running through their peerless back catalogue. Cascading synths, euphoric choruses, wonderful arrangements.
From debut album ‘Please’ there is ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’, ‘Suburbia’ and ‘West End Girls’ From follow-up ‘Actually’ we hear ‘It’s A Sin’, ‘Rent’ and ‘One More Chance’.
1987’s Christmas cover ‘Always On My Mind’ is the one of three chart-topping singles in the set; alas there is no place for ‘Heart’, which gave them consecutive British number ones in 1988.
There’s an unexpected run-through of some eighties buried treasure in ‘I’m Not Scared’, which Tennant and Lowe wrote for Eighth Wonder - one of the great one-hit wonders. The set being relentlessly upbeat on the whole, the only down-tempo moment is the brilliant ‘Being Boring’.
The sell-out Gateshead crowd was perhaps a little slow to get up on their feet, but enthusiastic thereafter, with the help of Tyneside-raised Tennant.
Their Village People cover, ‘Go West’, and ‘Vocal’, mixed with a few seconds of ‘It’s Alright’, ensured a rousing encore.