PET Shop Boys’ headline slot felt like a coup for Brighton Pride but the duo’s appearance signalled a departure from last year’s line-up. 2016’s festival was a celebration of chart pop and disco, from Carly Rae Jepson’s ubiquitous hit Call Me Maybe to Sister Sledge’s sleek, familiar funk. While Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have a clutch of much-loved tunes to their name they might not be considered party starters in the same way that the aforementioned acts undoubtedly are.

That notion was shattered by a 90 minute set of classy and catchy synth-pop which enthralled an already jubilant Pride crowd and had fans young and old boogying to their heart’s content. When large sections of the crowd are still singing songs from the concert on the way back to town and the train station – in this case Pet Shop Boys’ Go West – you know the gig has been a huge success. PSB’s appearance was clearly a big deal for many at Preston Park, with attendees of a certain, shall we say, vintage, rejoicing in the band’s undeniable choruses.

Those less familiar with the duo’s repertoire noted how accessible the songs were – with the instant appeal boosted by extravagant light projections which included green lazers, multicolour polkadots and shimmering white orbs. New York City Boy was belted back to Tennant with gusto – the first singalong of many – while Burn, from last year’s album Super, was a bona fide “banger” as youngsters might say.

The song’s thumping beat was a constant through large portions of the set, providing a propulsive, bass-driven backdrop to Tennant’s pitch-perfect vocal. The frontman was clearly enjoying himself, and while his interactions with the crowd were minimal – a heartfelt “this means so much” was his most notable offering – he wore a perpetual half-smile.

His backing band helped; three young multi-instrumentalists were on hand to give the set an extra punch, occasionally jumping in on backing vocals. A lot of Tennant’s lyrics worked nicely in the Pride context, and not always directly. Take Love is a Bourgeois construct, for instance, which introduced a neat irony to proceedings. Try telling that to this celebratory, loved-up crowd.

Elsewhere, massive single It’s a Sin acted as a poignant reminder of a time when being gay was outlawed – fitting for an event based around the 1967 “summer of love” and partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. Tennant may not have meant the tune to have taken on that meaning but that’s the beauty of his ambiguous writing; there is plenty of room for reinterpretation.

West End Girls, perhaps PSB’s most well-known hit, was met by a predictable roar of approval but the fact that it didn’t significantly stand out in a set full of gems was testament to Tennant and Lowe’s prolific hit rate. Indeed, Tennant introduced another fan favourite, Go West, with the words: “Here’s another old one...we’ve got a lot to choose from.” Cue that iconic synth line, a signal to audience members to recommence their boyish pogoing.

As well as delivering pop goodness Pet Shop Boys also flexed their more experimental side on occasion, at one point cutting loose with a hard-hitting rave breakdown that lasted nearly ten minutes. The tangent was reminiscent of “big beat” acts like Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim. You could be mistaken for thinking you were in the infamous Wild Fruit tent where such dance boisterousness is more often found.

Always On My Mind, PSB’s ninth single, reiterated Tennant’s ear for a poignant melody and lingered long in the memory after the set had come to an end. An emotional reprise of The Pop Kids – which the band had played for the first time earlier in the set – brought the performance to an end, emphasising the importance and power of pop music over adversity.

For PSB’s loyal fans, this was an affirmation of the duo’s rightful place in the British music hall of fame. For those less in the know, it was a thrilling introduction to a band that epitomised the life-affirming nature of Brighton Pride.