Given that St. Albans rabble-rousers Enter Shikari can pack in enough music, visuals and sheer fun into a single show to blow your bloody bollocks off, being lucky enough to see multiple shows in the same tour should carry a health warning. Your scribe is far, far too old and lazy to queue for three weeks and bag a spot down the front, but lounging at the back allows for a far more considered, chin-stroking appraisal of the proceedings where the whole stage (and accompanying retina-wrecking lightshow) can be seen at once.
It’s been ten whole years since the debut Take to the Skies, um, pointed Shikari towards the skies. They’ve spent the last decade doing the very best an honest, dedicated and hardworking band can do – build upon their initial promise and reward all those who gave an initial investment of interest with more and more quality releases of seamless dance-rock fusion, with riotously unforgettable live shows. As is the norm for most bands, the production has inevitably gotten cleaner and occasional pop-rock and ballad leanings have shown. It’s nowhere near to the detriment of the sheer quality, however, and conscious politics have always permeated the music – adding yet another point of interest: they have something to say.
New’un The Spark is a bit more singalong, with slightly less pointed teeth – but miserable bastards be damned, Shikari are currently shooting across the stars on blazing form. They’re still comparatively young, but already have the aforementioned slew of quality releases. Noticeable advancement in their sound is slightly harder to detect across the last few albums (but something very much not broken here has no real need to be fixed at all), but Shikari have made a huge step up in terms of their live show.
As frontman Rou Reynolds highlights himself in Nottingham’s Arena, they’ve only just graduated to playing arenas – February 2016, to be precise, which halfway explains why there’s still a bit of room left. The same question posed before arises – where to go from here? Do Shikari keep banging their heads against the wall of mainstream breakthrough with quality albums slightly more accessible than the last? Prayers went out for their mass-exposure explosion on previous album The Mindsweep, deserving as it was to finally propel them into the stratosphere.
Gains in the fanbase aside, the onward course appears to have been a continuous march forwards rather than any great leaps and bounds (and thankfully, no backward steps), but as if it wasn’t obvious enough already, Enter Shikari cannot possibly do any more than they already have. The back catalogue became swollen with absolute bangers and well-crafted pop/ballad standouts a long time ago, and the evolution of their live show has already demonstrated a cocksure defiance and ability to strider wider stages.
Frontman Reynolds appears to cover the entire stage all at once, sounding, along with the band, better than the records – an accolade reserved for very few bands. Ballads Airfield and Adieu, from the latest and earliest albums respectively, are performed flawlessly from a b-stage by the sound desk. The likes of Zzzonked and a four-song medley including set-staple Sorry You’re Not a Winner send all three crowds into a mosh-dance frenzy and new lead single Live Outside effortlessly garners wall-to-wall singalong as it closes the set.
For all the admirable polish and tightness, a Spinal Tap moment occurs in all three shows. The band slickly laugh it off each time, and only the most stone-hearted dullard wouldn’t laugh appreciatively at the band’s self-deprecation, where the band, for all the employment of electronics and samples, prove they’re still just four young blokes making a bit of highly lovable noise.
For anyone willing to listen, Enter Shikari have just about everything you could want from a band. Get on board.