At the Commodore on Friday, March 6
Maintaining the level of audio-visual hyper-stimulation necessary to capture the concentration of Generation Xbox for more than five minutes during a show can be tricky for DJs and live bands alike. Apparently, the members of Perth-cum-London rock ’n’ bass act Pendulum have clued in to this, realizing that spinning records or twiddling knobs on a stage simply doesn’t cut it with a game-brain audience anymore. As a result, they’ve put together a live-instrument, rock-electronic fusion record and arena-style stage show designed to hold the limited attention span of their key demographic.
Watch Pendulum perform "Propane Nightmares" at the Commodore on March 6.
Incessant flashing lights, stabbing synths, big builds, and the spring-loaded perma-pogo of lead singer Rob Swire made the six-piece’s stand at the Commodore on Friday night about as epileptic-friendly as a midnight-madness sale at Save-On-Strobes. While the rest of the Pendulum crew remained anchored to their respective marks and instruments throughout the show—the first of a 14-city North American tour—Swire was on fire with an endless assault of high kicks, figure-four jumps, and crowd-rousing when-I-say-“Hey”-you-say-“Ho” parlour tricks. Judging by the intensity and fervour of the audience’s reaction to the frontman’s rock-school antics and overuse of the word Vancouver, Pendulum was on point.
Amid the manufactured mayhem, gaggles of girls with too-tight tank tops, crack-skimming skirts, and sufficiently alternative-looking hair and makeup schlepped around purses big enough to carry all the Pendulum show essentials: bonus-sized bottle of super-hold hair spray, eight-hour supply of green Snap-N-Glow necklaces, rainbow clown wigs, gigantic gag-shop glasses, roll-on patchouli oil, and fresh thongs for the morning. Recognizing that dancing with humongous handbags may be hazardous to anyone within a five-foot radius, Swire erred on the side of caution with a just-in-time public-safety message from the stage: “Ladies, it’s time to put the handbags down and just let go and be part of it!” And, of course, like good little robots, they did.
Blasting through tracks mainly from its major-label about-face, In Silico, the band may have irked the purists with its transition from reasonably respectable drum ’n’ bass outfit to craptastic live rock band, but the mall rats and dreadlocked D ’n’ B latecomers packed into the joint didn’t seem to mind the departure. Or maybe they were too mesmerized to notice by the chick in the wig who dedicated herself to blowing happy bubbles off the back-of-the-room balcony.
Punters paying upwards of $200 for a single scalped ticket to the sold-out show certainly got their money’s worth if what they were looking for was the rare opportunity to alternate between slamming the air guitar and busting spastic rave moves for five hours. It was a dance-by-numbers affair, with Swire repeatedly directing the revellers to “raise the roof,” “two-step,” and “take it to the next level.” If the band’s idea of taking it to the next level was watching staggering, wide-eyed wasteoids get progressively gnarlier in the pit, mascara-smeared chicks trip over abandoned handbags en route to a quiet place to puke, and waitresses get surly because booze consumption tapered off significantly after midnight, then mission accomplished.