After putting out their incredible fifth album ‘The Spark,’ Enter Shikari returned to the first arena they ever headlined to put on a stellar performance of raw emotion, brute force, and mesmerising showmanship. Very few bands can build a sense of connected-ness between six thousand people under one roof the way that Enter Shikari can. This show was a clinic on performing a huge arena rock show while retaining a sense of intimacy. A message to every other band on the scene: Shikari are taking over, and no-one is going to get in the way of that.
Some issues at the gate lead to a delayed doors time, but the thousands who had arrived early and filled the foyer in their queues didn’t seem to mind. There was a general buzz of excitement and plenty of instances of people striking up conversations with strangers, something that is particularly nice to see at a Rock show.
Shortly after the eager fans were let in, Astroid Boys’ resident DJ Comfort took to the stage and started spinning a couple of tracks. After a couple of raised eyebrows from punters, the rest of the band stormed the stage and all became clear. Opening with the combination of Mask and Cheque was a bold move considering the audience of fans in various metal band’s T Shirts. It paid off, as fans quickly got involved and opened up an impressive circle pit for the Cardiff based Grime/Rock troupe.
“It was a strong performance”
The real highlight of Astroid Boys short set cam in the form of new single ‘Dirt’. Being a heavier track, the crowd immediately bounced along. It was a strong performance from a band that clearly came with a point to make. At times, the heavy bass muddied the sound which made the vocals a little less clear, but an impressive showing from the group nonetheless.
Lower Than Atlantis were entertaining but were lacking the extra energy that both other bands brought to the show. They did a fine job of warming the crowd up, and they seemed to be having some fun with it. It’s not that they were bad musically, the riffs were tight and the performance was hardly flawed, but the tone again made it less crisp than it needed to be. Aside from the last track ‘Here We Go’, very little stood out. It’s important to note that they weren’t bad by any stretch, and they’re a formidable band, but just didn’t feel quite right on this one.
Enter Shikari have honed their craft for over a decade and a half and it shows. Everything about this performance was meticulously well planned, while still feeling spontaneous and fresh. Ten minutes before the band came on, voices came on the loudspeaker acting out radio communications between agents about to go on a ‘level 5 mission’. The light show gradually began to respond, surround sound gave the impression of airplanes flying directly overhead inside the arena, and Glenn Miller tracks played calmly in the background.
“The arena broke into dance”
By the time the band walked onstage to the self-titled opening instrumental track off of The Spark, the crowd had erupted. Vocalist Rou Reynolds was joined in a chorus of six thousand people as he spoke the opening words: “Are you staying awake for the lift off, tonight?”. Immediately the arena broke into dance and it was clear that the band had come to have a lot of fun. A large circular screen lowered to complete a visually stunning stage set, displaying a huge radar. Quickly moving into Shikari classic ‘Solidarity’ kept the energy of the show moving forward, and this energy never faltered, even when the technology attempted to stop it.
As the band began ‘Radiate’ halfway through the main set, drummer Rob Rolfe’s stick snapped in half and flew directly into a button that cut the electronics in the song. An act that seemed too coincidental to be legitimate, but given that it hasn’t happened on the rest of the tour, it seems like a fantastic accident. After a quick joke about the odds of that happening, and with complete professionalism, the band marched onwards tearing through ‘Radiate’, and provoking massive singalongs in ‘Undercover Agents’. ‘Arguing With Thermometers’ brought an intensity that stands entirely unparalleled, and was matched by truly impressive visuals.
“It was clear that the fans were simultaneously exhausted but not finished yet”
Shortly after this, Rou disappeared and popped up again playing piano behind the sound desk. This built to an emotional singalong to ‘Airfield’. It wasn’t long after this that the main set was brought to a raucous end with what the band had comically titled “The Quickfire Round”; a medley of four fast paced and heavy Shikari songs squeezed into eight minutes of raw energy. It was clear that the fans were simultaneously exhausted but not finished yet, as many began to chant the line from ‘Solidarity’: “And still we will be here, standing like statues”. The encore began with a passionate performance of Redshift.
It was clear that seeing the arena audience sing and dance along to this had left Rou Reynolds feeling emotional. His voice cracked as he said “This was the first arena we headlined, and you have no idea how much this means to us. We’re going to play a track that’s about anxiety and feeling trapped”. This led to set closer ‘Live Outside’ which was filled with a truly cathartic sing along of six thousand people rejecting isolation and, if only for a moment, sharing a very special experience. An hour and a half set of faultless musical performance, filled with plenty of memorable moments was proof that Enter Shikari have absolutely earned their stage, and deserve to keep putting on shows like this, to as many people as possible, for a long time.
Images courtesy of Liam Fleming
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