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Pendulum Live - Alexandra Palace, London (Sunday 5th March 2023)

Eleven Years. That's how long it has been since Pendulum originally went on Hiatus, after experiencing burnout and a growing feeling that the project had reached its ceiling, Rob Swire & Gareth McGrillen called time on the project, and went off to pursue a new world with their recently formed duo, Knife Party.

It was not until Ultra Music Festival in 2016 that Pendulum would return to the live arena, however until recently it was uncertain if this would be regular, or just one-off shows here and there, including performances at Reading and Leeds Festival and Ultra again in 2022.

However, in Early September the band announced a one-off live show at Brixton Academy which sold out within hours of going on sale, the band then announced an extra date due to the demand which would also sell out.

The demand was there, Pendulum have returned.

Supporting acts for Pendulum last Sunday was Justin Hawkes and The Caracel Project. Justin Hawkes, formerly known as Flite, is an American Drum & Bass producer who debuted on Monstercat with his song We Are One.

The Caracel Project (real name Félix Burnod) is a drum and bass project from France. Originally started in early 2017 as a duo of Burnod and Maxime Engel, in February 2019 Engel officially left, and since that time The Caracal Project became a solo project of Burnod.

Both acts on the evening warmed up the crowd, building the mood and getting everyone ready for what was to come. A majority of the crowd may never have heard the music by these two artists, so it's great to see them on the bill and for them to perform to such a mass of people. Many around us were giving approving nods to the tunes being dropped, and as their support slots came to their ends, it is clear the crowd's energy is ready for Pendulum's first headline show in years.

Australian band Pendulum performing live on stage in London at Alexandra Palace in 2023
Pendulum Stage Shot

The lights drop out, and what appears to be the sounds of throat singing bellow out of the PA, which build slowly. A sea of phones appears above the crowd ready to grab the first sights of the four members of Pendulum's live band. However, as the singing continues for five minutes, more and more phones lower. Perhaps this was an attempt from the band to get people to put their phones down, and it worked surprisingly well!

The noise drops out and makes way for the bands actual intro which they all walk out to and take-up their respective instruments, as the beginning of Driver from their Elemental E.P. signals the start of the mayhem.

Driver is followed up by one of the bands best known songs, Propane Nightmares, a perfect blend of their DnB roots, and Rock tendencies. The crowd chant back the words as Frontman Rob Swire sings the first verse as it builds to that iconic drop, all the way until the end of the song as it ends with the shouted "Bring it on home".

The third track for the evening see's the band perform the industrial/goth track Come Alive, another from their most recent release, Elemental, before reaching one of the highlights of their sets, Blood Sugar. This classic track turns the energy up a notch, all the way until the band drops Voodoo People, which sees the crowd roar into a frenzy, as hands go wild, and the crowd chant back the lead line to the iconic remix of the Prodigy's hit, before effortlessly returning back to Blood Sugar.

By the end of this one-two punch combo, the band have managed to please both fans of the old works, as well as new so far, establishing that regardless of what you like from their back catalogue, there's something for everyone.

Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen of Drum and Bass band, Pendulum, performing on stage at London's Alexandra Palace in March 2023
Rob Swire (Synths) and Gareth McGrillen (Bass)

“Many people said they didn’t think Pendulum could sell tickets anymore", Rob Swire addresses the crowd, before declaring defiantly "There’s 11,000 people here tonight, I think that proves them wrong”.

It is clear he has a newfound confidence in himself, something that is hugely appreciated and adds another dynamic to their live set up. As a fan, it's reassuring to know he, and the other members of the band are enjoying their time back on stage.

During the show, the band performed multiple new songs, the first of which is one that was debuted at their Reading & Leeds 2022 secret set. This track appears to have remained untouched since then, however fans who managed to grab a setlist at the end of Sunday's performance revealed the name of the track, 'Colourfast'. The song appears to have been well received by the fans since then, with many in the crowd singing the words back to the band (not bad considering it has not even officially released yet!).

KJ Sawka of Drum and Bass band Pendulum performing live on stage in London at Alexandra Palace in 2023
KJ Sawka (Drums)

Fans are then treated to Showdown, which is then followed up by a second new song, with Rob prepping the crowd saying “You’re gonna have to bear with us. When I sent this guy the track. He said it feels like we’re both pretending to be a metal band. And there's a little bit of me that agrees.”

The track name has since been confirmed as 'Guiding Lights', a bouncy riffy tune with a soaring chorus. Gareth confirms during the bridge that the song features AWOLNATION on the bridge, who performs a chanted repetition that flashes on the video walls, before making way for a breakdown that continues the chant until the end of the song. Banger.

Without doubt, one of the standout moments on the night came in the form of Encoder off of ‘Immersion’. During their time away this song has become a fan favourite, with the outro being a euphoric release that acts as a bittersweet goodbye (this was the last song to be released before the band went on hiatus).

However, it's clear that the band view the song differently, as Rob describes when the track drops out, “When we went away in 2012, this was supposed to be (kind of) a sad song, but the meaning since then behind the track has kinda changed, and it's not a sad song anymore, now it’s a happy one.” Before premiering a new, almost happy hardcore rendition drop that is uplifting and could equally be suited on the dance floor as a gig.

In one drop the band have embraced that they are in a different era to the one they were in when the song was originally released.

The crowd are then treated to two more songs off of Immersion, with the two parter The Island, having the crowd sing not only the lyrics, but the lead synth line at the top of their lungs to Pt.1, with Pt.2 seeing everyone bobbing along to the beat. This combo has always gone down well at festival slots, and it goes off equally well at this special headline night.

The band then bring one of their newer songs out, performing Nothing for Free, originally released in 2010, which sees the crowd bounce during the drop, a song that could be considered slow, but allows the crowd a breather, knowing there is plenty more still to come yet.

The second song premiered on Sunday, 'Halo', features screamed vocals from Bullet for My Valentines' Matt Tuck goes off with the fans well, with many chanting the chorus back after one video posted to social media features Rob laying down vocals on the chorus. Despite not being released, the fans still know.

Rob Swire of Drum and Bass band Pendulum performing in London at Alexandra Palace in 2023
Rob Swire - Performing with his Starr Labs Ztar

Granite is then performed, and whilst this song was denounced by the DnB scene upon its release, it is clear why it is still featured on the live band setlist. Perhaps the rock fans have kept the flag flying for this song. However, they do drop Mr Happy during the ending of the song, keeping both rock and dance fans happy for this song.

After Granite, another surprise on the night occurs when an 8-bit rendition of the metal-inspired Self vs Self is played out over the PA, with accompanying visuals, before cutting out for the beginning of the actual song. Multiple pits opening up and the crowd responds energetically with arms being shot into the air across the venue and screams of approval.

As the set builds to its end, the double combo of Witchcraft and Hold Your Colour's Tarantula brings the crowd to peak energy, with pits opening up all round the iconic venue again, as the drops for both songs happen, it seems the crowd have more to give yet, and so do the band.

Guitarist of Pendulum performing at Alexandra Palace in London in 2023
Peredur ap Gwynedd - Guitarist

McGrillen then announces that the next song will be their last song for the evening, as the intro to their hit Watercolour begins, which has been their closing song since Immersion's release in 2010, as the crowd prepare to give their all one more time as the iconic opening lines get belted by the crowd back at the band. It's hard to tell who was louder; the band, or the crowd, despite this the crowd give it their all one more time until the song concludes.

As the performance closes, the crowd demand an encore, hoping to hear one more song, and whilst they've closed their set, it soon becomes clear the show isn't over just yet. The band leave the stage briefly, before returning for one more song. And in a cheer of applause, Perry begins to play the opening guitar piece from the closing track of 2008's In Silico, The Tempest.

"We've only played this twice since we wrote it, this is the third" Rob announces (the previous times was 2008's Brixton Academy performance and the other the band's headline show at Wembley Arena during the Immersion Tour).

The track closes out the night, in a way that a Pendulum fan could only dream of, as people leave the venue, faces of shock, pleasure and euphoria adorned on their face, knowing full well they have just witnessed potentially the best set this band has ever put on.

A band on stage performing to a crowd, London, UK
Pendulum performing new song 'Guiding Lights'

Between these new tracks, and the previously released songs, Pendulum seem to be leaning even more towards being a rock band, all whilst keeping the electronic elements that made them who they are in the first place. They seem more like a band than ever before, and with more engagement with the audience, a brand-new live show, and new music on the horizon, they have proven that despite being veterans of the music scene, they are still a force to reckon with, even after twenty years in the business.

The love and support for the Drum and Bass legends was clearly on show on Sunday night. Fans can now only speculate as to when their next headline show will be. All they can do is hope it will be sooner rather than later. It is fair to say that Pendulum has officially swung back into focus.

Pendulum at Alexandra Palace, London (05/03/2023) Setlist

  1. Driver

  2. Propane Nightmares

  3. Come Alive

  4. Blood Sugar / Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix)

  5. Colourfast (Formerly Reading ID)

  6. Showdown

  7. Guiding Lights (Feat AWOLNATION)

  8. Encoder (With new outro)

  9. The Island - Pt.1

  10. The Island - Pt.2

  11. Nothing For Free

  12. Halo (Feat. Matt Tuck of Bullet for My Valentine)

  13. Granite (With Mr Happy Tease)

  14. Self vs Self (8-bit intro)

  15. Witchcraft

  16. Tarantula

  17. Watercolour

  18. The Tempest

If you have any questions, my socials and contact can be found on my website, look forward to talking!

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