Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, 2023: PET SHOP BOYS

Princes St Gardens

It was a dark and rainy Night in Aulde Reekie as I waited upon the 21, for like 29 mins, 29 mins when it was pissing it doon felt like 3 days. It was the first time I had been out all-day, I was prepped for a cold wet night, a good brolly and thermals, my long black cashmere coat is really waterproof. when the 21 came I was ever so grateful, getting off at Hawk Hill and walking round to Spuds so that he could perform his photogenic mastery. documenting The Pet Shop Boys and Midnight Fireworks.

When I was a nipper I bought Smash Hits every week. This was when Neil Tennant was the editor and I always really enjoyed his writing in Smash Hits, I swapped Smash Hits for Q Magazine and Neil Tennant also wrote for Q. I loved Loved loved Disco when it came out and it still stands as a cohesive whole. The hits of the PSBs are really really ingrained into people’s subconscious because they have been so successful. Of course this level of popularity ensures sell out concerts globally without faltering. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have been satisfying a largely Gay audience for 4 decades and their pop light synthpopness has found its way into most people of a certain generation’s CD collection. Indeed the PSBs have become part of the framework of being British. National treasures.

So why would people pay £80 to stand in The Ross Bandstand in the middle of Winter in the pissing rain. for four hours. In the worst dreich inclement weather to have landed on The Hogmanay doorstep in recent History. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has always been hardcore weatherwise, I will never forget seeing The Human League play a stage erected at the roundabout on the junction of Market Street, with gale-force Artic blasts adding an extra chill factor, it was still brilliant in a surreal only in Edinburgh kind of way. The difference being of all inclement weather that is hard to deal with persistent rain and being exposed to it is the hardest. Good Time sucker of them all. As you can guess, I am struggling to divorce myself from just how fucking minging it actually was, to give a balanced review.

Sophie Ellis Bexter

Saying that, I am so so glad I made the effort, for the night was fantastic. I danced so hard on Friday. Sophie Ellis Bexter should have been the headliner; she is a lady that connects and genuinely cares, she was engaged with her Audience to get the best out of them, also it was a younger up for it crowd having a really Good Time. And of course it wasnae raining.

So, to come from the perspective of reviewing Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in past years, I can draw a comparison. My last one, The Street Party had three stages; housing The Human League, Colonel Mustard And the Dijon 5 Amongst others, that alone was worth the price of a Street Party ticket. I didn’t get to Princes Street Gardens West End for Rag n Bone Mans ushering in of the bells (Which was really really good by the way) and fireworks, I got there just as Rag n Boneman came on Stage if only because there was so much to see and do out with The Ross Bandstand. But this year there was none of that. So what were people actually paying for?

The warm-up DJ, DJ Elle Jo – Pretty Ugly – had a difficult job on her hands, warming up a soggy audience, she did look a little out of her depth on that mega stage as she played a good 80s/90s selection of tunes. Am not sure that she was comfortable, but we were nae there for comfort, we were there for Rock n Roll. And tonight’s host, Susie McCabe, introduced the Hogmanay Headliners to a backdrop of a projected Ukrainian flag.

The stage was prepped as Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe took to it; at first before a minimal design – two lamp posts a microphone and Chris Lowes keyboards to begin a set of The Pet Shop Boys’ greatest hits, performed with full mega production glitz, with a rib-shaking soundsystem. The lights and the stage show were nothing less than excellent, and mesmerising. As hit after hit was performed, the stage set changed to reveal a proper band (gosh); the visuals were incredible and the party went off.

Stopping just before midnight for the countdown and fireworks, Susie McCabe announced the countdown and asked everyone to hug each other… Sweety, everyone is soaking wet, that’s nae gonna happen.

The Fireworks were spectacular; there were lots of Ooooos and Ahhhhs, explosions of pyrotechnic amazingness. It was a very nice firework display and then we all had a singalong to Aulde Lang Sign. Then The Pet Shop Boys came back on for their closing songs, with West End Girls as the encore being my fave Pet Shop Boys number.

I think had this been the middle of Summer, then this concert would have been a delight from start to finish. Because it was amazingly spectacular from a performance art perspective, better perceived from a hot beach, rather than a sea of cagoules and umbrellas.

Words: Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Photography: Raymond Speedie

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