A few hours before Pendulum were due to take the stage for their first Sydney show in eight years, word went around that vocalist/synth-master Rob Swire had damaged his voice and would not be able to sing. But rather than bow out, Pendulum powered through, by planning to play live with a pre-recorded vocal track. The show would go on, but refunds were available.
If you’re one of the few that took them up on that offer, know this. You missed out.
Everyone was determined to turn the tables on a s***ty situation. Plenty of people were enthusiastically posting about “Pendulum karaoke,” supporters rallied around Swire, refusing to let the band’s show fall by the wayside. If anything, it made every single Sydney fan extremely motivated to blow the roof off the Enmore Theatre.
And boy did they. As soon as the show kicked off with “Salt in the Wounds,” Sydney went utterly ballistic. Sure it was strange seeing Swire up there sans-microphone, but there was rarely a moment where people were left wanting for live vocals. No slight on his singing style of course, but the setlist with songs selected from their entire discography was so perfectly executed, it was easy to forget the problems and just drown in drum and bass.
That mutual understanding between the band and fans set a unique tone for the show. It was always going to be wild, but Sydney bent the barriers of controlled chaos. Every drop, every buildup, every blast beat that pushed the beats per minute higher and higher just drove the fans harder. “Showdown,” and “Slam” turned the mosh into a sweaty, steamy, heaving mass of humans, drenching the walls in sweat amidst a flurry of hair and flailing limbs. “Propane Nightmares” became a deafening singalong, much to the delight of bassist Gareth McGrillen, who doubled on MC duties to keep the crowd nice and hyped (not that they needed it).
Even instrumentals moments enjoyed mass chants. An audience old enough to remember our national broadcaster 90s, enthusiastically trumpeted along during the “ABC News Theme Remix,” while “The Island” was met with a hearty series of “woah oh ohhhs.” Nothing was getting in the way of everyone’s enthusiasm, especially when it was time to thrown down to their jungle-driven classic “Tarantula.”
While the unbridled passion certainly lifted the show to strasopheric heights, you couldn’t ignore Pendulum’s technical prowess on stage. Even after all these years, these guys still strike with force and precision of heavy machinery, directly drilling through bones with skull-shattering drum and bass lines. Yet they perform with the presence of a rock band, throwing their instruments around while strutting about the stage. Well, most – Swire did prefer to keep his feet planted for the most part, while twiddling away on his MIDI guitar.
Everything was perfectly executed. From the bang on mix to the gargantuan rig that combined a frenetic collection of lights with a giant LED screen pumping pulsating images on screen perfectly timed to the music, sucked everyone into a show that exploded well beyond the music. At the end of the day, Swire’s vocal issues didn’t matter because frankly, you wouldn’t have been able to hear him over the roaring sea of voices in the pit.
So thank you Pendulum, and Sydney. Together, you took a tough situation and turned it into something loud and beautiful that everyone will remember for the rest of their lives.
P.S. Welcome home Pendulum.