Gig review: Pendulum at First Direct Arena, Leeds

With shrewd poppy nous and heady widescreen songcraft, the Perth electronic rock outfit return to arenas with a superb sense of laser-strafed enormo-club nirvana.

A video montage of a nuclear blast explodes out of the darkness at Leeds’s First Direct Arena. A cod-animé narration accompanies it as Pendulum frontman Rob Swire leads his band out. Several thousand voices roar and scream in anticipation.

Like a kind of warped communion, this is music for the masses with bodies caught in the sway of devotion.

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For a band who have not put out a new record in close to a decade-and-a-half – their last album, 2010’s chart-topping Immersion, was released mere weeks after David Cameron walked into 10 Downing Street for the first time – it is a remarkable tribute to the Perth collective, and their ability to weather the shifting tides of a musical landscape that they remain so commercially potent.

But then, Pendulum’s brand of electronic rock – rooted in their origins as a drum and bass outfit, before a twitchy mutation towards dance-metal anthemics marked them as anointed successors to The Prodigy – has often defied the trendlines, thanks in part to frontman Swire’s shrewd nous when it comes to a poppy hook.

On their first full arena tour since those halcyon days, they have not lost any of their bludgeoned potency; this is an outfit that retains its skill in translating heady widescreen songcraft amid cavernous venues into laser-strafed enormo-club nirvana.

If anything, the interceding years has helped enhance their reputation; absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all, and several acclaimed slots on the festival circuit has helped recalibrate their retina-scorching act with enough light and shade between the subwoofer-rattling noise, its spit and polish there to witness – and tough to ignore – in the deliriously glitchy peaks of Encoder and the beefy terrace chant transformation of The Island.

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Newer songs stack up superbly too; Come Alive, with its rodomontaded rhythms and fat groove, is an early highlight, while Halo builds around techno-thrash aesthetics to thrilling effect.

And it is a full-bodied arena production too; gargantuan screens slot seamlessly into stage risers, enhancing the sci-fi drops of Crush and Propane Nightmares with cosmic colours and spaghetti western graphics.

Watercolour, their biggest hit, appears to round matters off with singalong anthemics, but Swire gives fans only a moment in darkness before returning for The Tempest.

“You knew we weren’t gonna leave like that!” he cries. One expects such rapture will bring them back soon enough.

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