As Pet Shop Boys’ Discovery Tour wound its way through Singapore, Australia and South America in the final months of 1994, Neil Tenant and Chris Lowe did, indeed, make a discovery: they didn’t need to rely on high-concept staging and restrictive choreography in order to put on a show. All they needed was to turn up at a venue, armed with their increasingly bullet-proof catalogue of songs, and give fans a night they’d never forget (though a few choice costume changes wouldn’t go amiss…).
Across 13 cities and 20 concerts, from late October through to mid-December 1994, that’s exactly what Pet Shop Boys delivered: hits-stuffed sets that, liberated from the multimedia demands of their Derek Jarman-helmed 1989 MCMLXXXIX tour and the theatrics that defined their Performance shows of 1991, doubled-down on the abandon of their most club-friendly music. By the time the Discovery tour pulled into Rio De Janeiro for three nights across 9, 10 and 11 December – filmed by a local crew for the Discovery: Live In Rio 1994 concert film – it’s like Pet Shop Boys were firing the starting gun for the city’s annual carnival two months early.
“We’re more free-spirited on this tour”
“We wanted to define a way Pet Shop Boys could perform live, without turning into a rock band,” Neil Tennant told journalist Chris Heath in early October 1994, during rehearsals for the tour. “Other groups who make their music using synthesisers and sequencers in the studio always tend to turn into rock bands when they play live, and it never sounds as good.”
“We’re still the same,” Chris Lowe added, “but the attitude of the performance is different. We’re more free-spirited on this tour… It’s not a totally choreographed, staged and rehearsed show. I suppose it is more rock’n’roll in its attitude.”
Pet Shop Boys’ Discovery shows were, indeed, stripped back… by Tennant and Lowe’s standards, at least. The performances were still replete with videos, dancers and costume changes – what Tennant called a “costume greatest hits” for audiences that had never seen the duo live before. At Rio, Tennant still took to the stage for I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing in a Beatles-style moptop wig and black PVC jacket – Hamburg-era Fabs, by way of New York’s LGBTQ club scene – and stepped out in a gold lamé suit for an acoustic mini-set, newly conceived for the Discovery tour. The silver cone hats, too, were present and correct for Go West, while Tennant’s Pope outfit, reserved for It’s A Sin, inevitably raised one of the biggest cheers of the night.