Uncertain was the fate of Pendulum‘s first full-band Sydney show in a brutal eight years; only a couple of hours before doors were set to open, the band announced that vocalist/synthlord RobSwire was buckled with a vocal hemmorage, rendering his sweet and slick musings mute. But rather than axe the set completely (as is the norm when a vocalist is benched), Pendulum decided to instead play the set instrumentally, Swire with his custom MIDI “guitar” (dubbed the Ztar) in tow and studio versions of his vocal tracks driving the mix. After so much hype surrounding the quartet’s stage return, it was disappointing to see our vocalist out of action. But it was better than a full-on cancellation, of course, and even with a silent Swire, the band performed with a level of might only Pendulum at their prime really could.
Longtime fans of both Pendulum and their club house offshoot – Swire and bassist Gareth McGrillen‘s KnifeParty – will understand the gravitas of a normally stoic Swire cracking a smile mid-song: it’s an indication that his performance is unquestionably authentic, and nailing every piercing synth and warbling bassline from both his Ztar and a keyboard stack, it’d be an understatement to say he crushed it. Ditto for snare king KJSawka, who pummeled through every breakneck drum beat not a hit off-pace, solos aplenty as he complimented bass so brutal it had the Enmore’s balcony shaking. And though resident turntablist ElHornet was MIA, the raw, punish dynamic between McGrillen and guitarist PeredurapGwynedd more than made up for the lack of Hornet’s charisma.
The pair stood out with a setlist that placed considerable highlight on their talents, too, cuts like “Showdown” and “Slam” driven by thick, pit-spurring riffs. It would’ve been nice to see some underrated gems like “The Vulture” or “Mutiny” get a spin, but across a tight 90 minutes, the band delivered a full slate of fan favourites. “Tarantula” drew the biggest yells of acclaim, to no surprise, the jungle classic as heavy-hitting today as it was in ’05. And the singalongs to a shortened runthrough of “The Island” proved that Swire’s CD vocals weren’t even necessary: it’s hard to forget such powerful lyrics, and goddammit, were we keen to belt them out.
Sans the unbearable opening set from Brisbane electro-grungers Earthlings – whose 30 minutes of grotesque synth abuse could be used as a torture method for extracting intel from war criminals – Pendulum’s four-piece return to the stage made for an unforgettable night. And given the speed at which it sold out, and the ear-splitting cheers they garnered from the crowd, we’d be shocked if their inevitable return didn’t bump them right up to arenas.