Enter Shikari are one of the few bands that require no introduction, partly because any attempt to describe their music would result in the same confusion as a discussion of the meaning of life with an infant. These genre-hopping giants recently dropped their incredible 4Th LP “The Mindsweep” last month, meaning it was time to ‘Take To The Skies’ once more and deliver a tour de force filled with brand new, meaty material, alongside fan favourites.
‘The Corn Exchange’ fits in perfectly with the architectural aesthetic of Cambridge – old and pretty from the outside, but neat and modern on the inside; with a decently sized floor-space for fans to tear up, a huge stage and the obligatory wall-length bars in the foyer. Unfortunately, Cambridge is around three hours away from where I live, meaning I missed the first support band: ‘Fatherson’ – which is a pity as their smooth alt-rock tones would have been the perfect way to get in the mood for a night of music – if not quite preparing for the hectic energy of the following bands.
The second band to hit the stage was ‘Allusondrugs’ – a band which I did manage to catch, who were sadly underwhelming. Each song seemed like a pastiche of a different band: first attempting to emulate ‘The Strokes’, then ‘The Darkness’, followed by ‘Marmozets’… unfortunately, by not choosing a signature sound for themselves, ‘Allusondrugs’ don’t feel like they’ve mastered any particular style – the set came across as bland and uninteresting. Oh, and the lead singer could benefit from some singing lesson (just saying).
All was not lost though, as ‘Feed The Rhino’ took to the stage to remind everyone that the raw energy of hardcore is still very much alive and kicking. Still riding off the back of the success of their most recent album “The Sorrow & the Sound”, FTR know how to get a crowd moving. The venue’s PA was almost unable to handle the sheer power or anthemic belters “Behind The Pride”, “Give Up” and the signature rock’n’roll vibe of “Deny and Offend”. Towards the end of their set, it seemed that even frontman Lee Tobin was struggling to maintain his voice – although I challenge anyone to keep up his full-throated hollering for over half an hour. ‘Feed The Rhino’ finished off their set with the more reflective “Tides” – living proof that even the heaviest bands have a subtler side – and the undeniably catchy “New Wave”. The energy in the performance was pure and ungated, and whet the crowd’s appetite perfectly for the entrée: ‘Enter Shikari’.
Before I continue, I should point something out: ‘Enter Shikari’ work within every genre of music possible. They can start off with a sombre acoustic sound, move into a dance track, a dubstep drop, crushingly heavy breakdowns and finish with a stadium rock anthem – often all in the same song. As a result, crowds aren’t full of the usual suspects when it comes to moshing. Usually, there’s a standing area at the back, a pit for moshing in the middle and people singing along at the front. A Shikari gig is essentially a free-for-all: there is no etiquette. People break out into moshing/dancing all over the venue, and standing at the front will get you squashed up against everyone else so tightly that you won’t be able to breathe. Ironically, this makes the pit (in any shape or form) the safest place to be – suits me.
‘Enter Shikari’ set the scene with the thought-provoking opener from the most recent album: “The Appeal & the Mindsweep 1”. The chilling electronic backbeat and slam poetry-style call to arms from front-man Rou Reynolds gave me chills, before the band launched into a frantic, anthemic journey – a pattern and pace that was held for the entire concert. I’m always impressed at how refined Enter Shikari’s lyrical content is – all songs are incredibly well thought-out political statements weaved into a beautiful and often raucous blend of electronic and metal music. Angry fan-favourites “Destabilise”, “Radiate” and “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” provided the perfect atmosphere to throw my weight around and just wallow in the sorry state our society is (apparently) in. When a song starts off with the lyrics “Now, I don’t know about you…” and warning sirens, you know that someone is about to erupt – and it’s probably going to be you. New additions to the Shikari catalogue definitely don’t let up on this; notable songs include “Anaesthetist” – a furious retort to plans to privatise healthcare and the decline of the NHS – “Never Let Go Of The Microscope” – an electronic, almost ambient song if it weren’t for the carefully planned scientific rap from Reynolds – and “Myopia”, a tragic song about the extinction of various species on our planet. The technical proficiency of the band has noticeably improved since their inception, especially on these newer, more ambitious songs.
Of course, it’s not all violence and harsh sounds: Welcome respites from the madness came in the form of slightly softer songs such as the acoustic “Stalemate”, “Torn Apart” which is an anthem for the decline of society (and oh so danceable-to) and the almost Coldplay-esque “Dear Future Historians”. Each of these songs starts off noticeably softer, in an acoustic manner and build different layers of sound until you’re hit with a wall of emotion – which is no less breathtaking than screaming your lungs out. It’s during these quieter moments that you realise “Wow, these guys are seriously talented musicians”, and it’s utterly true. Few bands can claim to flick between your emotions like Shikari do: tugging on your heartstrings, making you think about the world that you live in and getting you riled up about how stupid human beings can be.
Not to say that the show was all doom-and-gloom – more reflective at times, with an aura of aggression that’s a welcome release for most. Some class-A stage-presence and banter kept everyone completely invested in the show – particularly towards the end of the show. Already a fan-favourite, the 2-minute restaurant complaint in the form of “Slipshod” went down an utter storm, with the entire crowd screaming out the quintessentially British anthem of disappointment. Reynolds may have even gotten a little too into it, as he smashed a glass vase on Rob Rolfe’s drum kit to the cue in the song. It just made me wonder how many injuries the band sustain from shows like these! “Slipshod” ran straight into the party anthem “Sssnakepit”, Shikari-style: The song started off with the Hamilton remix of the track and the band transitioned seamlessly into the original. This practise was seen earlier with the dubstep edit of “Motherstep 2.0” into “Mothership” and a mash-up of the latest single “The Last Garrison” with a stellar remix of “Juggernauts” by Nero, ending up again on the original. Throughout the gig I was constantly aware of how much planning the boys put into their set – which music to play, how it all flowed into the next song and how to create a spectacle with a mix of gravitas and exceptional lighting.
This was the 4th time I had seen Enter Shikari, yet I was still completely blown away. It definitely won’t be the last time either. If you’ve never seen the indescribable spectacle that they put on, I recommend you head down to a show as soon as you can.
~ Adam Hitchen, Head of Music