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PENDULUM @ Metro City gets 8.5/10

Pendulum @ Metro City
w/ Earthlings
Saturday, June 30, 2018

8.5/10

When Pendulum emerged on the scene in the early 2000s they changed the game with their fresh take on live drum ‘n’ bass – scorching synth lines, huge beats and bass, MCs and vocalists – their sound was a supercharged hybrid that paid homage to their d’n’b heroes, with the explosive rock edge of Prodigy, and was custom built to blow up arenas.

While the three original members reunited at Origin NYE 2016 for a DJ set, it’s been six years since their last live tour – a lot of info online says eight years, but that’s discounting their tour with Summadayze in 2012, where at the final leg in Perth they announced they would be taking a break. Reformed and refreshed, the boys received a hero’s welcome from the hometown crowd, and proved they’ve lost nothing of their power, blowing away a sold out Metro City.

There was a lot of excitement in the air – some fans were young enough that it was probably the first chance they’ve had to see them with the full live band. The rise of Pendulum coincided with the rise of dubstep in the mid 2000s, and the general crossover of dance music into the pop charts. It’s hard to recall a time when their heavy sound was innovative, such was their influence. After relocating to the UK and releasing their debut Hold Your Colour, they exploded worldwide and became one of the biggest, in demand live dance acts on the planet.

After three albums, the band went on hiatus. The boys themselves seemed to tire of the scene, heading off in different directions. Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen formed Knife Party, following more of an upfront dubstep, electro club sound, while Paul ‘El Hornet’ Harding continued to DJ. They were tempted to reform to play Ultra Music Festival in Miami in 2016, and after touring the festival circuit for a couple years have finally found their way home. While no new material has been released yet, they put out a remixes album this year called The Reworks.

Brisbane’s Earthlings started things off for those not still in the queue with their interesting take on live electro beats with rocking vocals reminiscent of The Presets mixed with the raw 90s sound of Pop Will Eat Itself. Their set included several well known covers alongside their own material, that had definite crossover appeal to the Pendulum crowd.

After a suitably anticipation-building break, Pendulum took to the stage dressed in their customary black, kicking in hard with Salt In The Wounds from their 2010, and last, album Immersion. As the beat dropped, and the massive stage show exploded in a bombastic sea of strobes, the entire venue was heaving, moving as one. And it barely let up for the next hour and a half.

Big single Witchcraft from the same album saw Rob Swire step from behind his keyboards, strapping on his custom Starr Labs Ztar MIDI Guitar, and stepping up to the mic – taking it down a notch for the somber, rather emo vocal opening, but only briefly before the huge scorching Ztar riff came in and ignited the up-for-it crowd like a tinder box. It’s been a long time since Metros was this packed and going off this hard.

“It’s so good to be back in Perth” said Swire, who stated he was battling a vocal infection, and asked the crowd to help him sing the songs. He did an incredible job, giving it his all, but it was obvious he was struggling at times. Turns out it he pushed it too far, as following this show, poor Swire lost his voice entirely, suffering an “acute vocal haemorrhage”, which meant for the rest of the national tour, he’s using vocal backing tracks.

The band have also dropped Ben Mount, the old school style MC, who brought a lot of energy to their shows, but could get a bit tiresome and distracting at times. There seems to be more space for the music now. As well as playing bass, the eternally baseball-capped McGrillen has now stepped into the role of ‘hype man’, shouting out well timed phrases like “Are you ready?!”.

It’s a back to basics line up for the group, who had their roots in rock and metal bands, and seem to be taking things more in that direction. They’re a tight four-piece now, with Swire and McGrillen joined by long time members, Welsh guitarist Peredur ap Gwynedd, and the amazing human drum machine, KJ Sawka.

There was a huge sing-along to the melody of massive anthem The Island – Pt. I (Dawn), the most euphoric, trancey, EDM type thing they’ve ever done. This was quickly followed by The Island – Pt. II (Dusk) which is more of a busted-up Skrillex style dubstep workout – something that pointed in the direction they took with Knife Party.

After a lot of material from their last album, they played a brief cut of their infamous remix of The Prodigy’s Voodoo People which caused absolute mayhem, as well as Showdown and 9000 Miles from their second album In Silico, complemented by impressive lighting and visuals.

The spoken sample of Prelude, the intro track on their debut, drew hollers from the crowd, and of course led into the surging Slam, inciting total chaos, with arms flailing, and drinks flying. The atmosphere was intense. Swire delivered his powerful, brooding, processed vocals on Propane Nightmares, before busting into the big synth riff chorus, which encouraged another soccer crowd style sing along. It’s kind of odd.

With a nod to their ‘other band’, they performed a cover of Knife Party’s Begin Again, before finishing with a couple big tracks off their legendary debut – the massive jungle tune Tarantula featuring the original vocals of the late legendary British ragga MC Tenor Fly, who was given a fitting tribute, with his giant image cast upon the big screen, and a fitting closer was the emotional Hold Your Colour.

Returning for a brief encore, they busted out their wicked ABC News Theme Remix – complete with the trumpet fanfare and old transmission tower footage. Never before has the news sounded so triumphant. They finished their set, as they often did, with the barnstorming Watercolour that had the place getting hectic for one last dance, before they left the stage to huge cheers, giving heartfelt thanks to their hometown. The only glaring omission was the massive Fasten Your Seatbelt. Still an epic set.

While there was no new material, they have stated they’re working on a new album, to be released on their own label, so it will be interesting to see which direction they head in with this latest incarnation. It would be great if they can keep their roots but craft a fresh new sound. In any case, it’s great to have the boys back and feel that energy again. There’s no one else quite like them, and in this day and age of overly produced, generic, saccharine dance-pop, the time is ripe for Pendulum to come back and tear us a new one.

Swire said it best in a tweet from last year, “I am so fucking bored of EDM and lit drops and Serum patches and Festival Bass. I’m gonna make a new Pendulum album. It’s going to have guitars and vox and dnb and be completely irrelevant, which I’m starting to think might actually be a good thing.”

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Paul Dowd

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