Having cemented their place as one of the best live bands around over the last 13 years, Enter Shikari finally make the step up to playing arenas in their latest run of UK shows. Having seen them numerous times in different size venues, I don’t think there’s any doubt that they deserve to be playing bigger venues. For a band who have the unique ability to make any size venue feel intimate, it would be interesting to see if they could still pull off the same trick in a venue the size of the recently renamed, Motorpoint Arena. They bring with them tonight, Philadelphia Pop-punk heavyweights The Wonder Years and recently reformed London punks The King Blues.
Having missed The King Blues due to some kind of issue finding my name on the guest-list, (despite my name being, most likely, the longest on the list), I arrive for the second half of The Wonder Years. I’m greeted with a sound that is neither generic nor very interesting; in fact it’s all a bit bland. Front-man Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell certainly has a lot of energy to burn, as he jumps around the stage pumping out he’s honest, heartfelt lyrics. Though, I can’t hear much of it, as everything he sings is competing with the sound of three guitars, a bassist and a ridiculously loud kick drum. I’m sure fans of the band had a great time but anyone unfamiliar with the band, won’t have had much to convince them to go and listen to this band after the set. Touted as one of the leading lights in pop-punk at the moment, their set tonight was hardly the catalyst needed to convince me to become invested in a genre that, apart from a few bands, I’ve never really cared for.
Tonight would be Enter Shikari’s first arena show as the headline act, noted by front-man Rou himself “Linkin Park are up next, yeah?” he says, tongue in cheek, midway through tonight’s set. It’s hard to deny that Enter Shikari deserve to be playing shows of this size, they’ve been consistently named as one of the best live acts around, and anyone who has seen them before can certainly attest to this. The energy of the band is evident from the start, as the huge sounding ‘Solidarity’ from their 2009 sophomore album ‘Common Dreads’. The crowd is in an uproar already, as huge pits open up as soon as that trance-like intro blast over the speakers. It gets even crazier as they follow up this one, with ‘Sorry, You’re Not a Winner’ still the bands biggest hit off dÃ©but record ‘Take To The Skies’.
While the set-list did lean on material from their most recent album, the brilliant ‘The Mindsweep’, the boys kept their promise of throwing some lesser heard material into the set. Their decision to mash-up old favourite ‘No Sleep Tonight’ into the final verse of newer one ‘The Last Garrison’, was an inspired choice. Two songs that work so well together, despite their obvious differences in tempo, key and overall feel. Over the years, Shikari have cut out their own niche in the music world, by writing music that is constantly developing, challenging and unique. This most definitely applies to their live shows, no two shows are the same, which makes them such an exciting prospect in a live setting. Tonight, of course, is no different, midway through the set front-man Rou, disappears only to appear moments later slap bang in the middle of the arena on a piano.
With four electric blue light beams coming from the podium he is on, it’s certainly a spectacle. With everyone’s eyes fixed on him, he proceeds to play ‘Dear Future Historians’, the epic penultimate track off The Mindsweep., which builds and builds until exploding into life with a huge final minute and a half, which sees Rou atop his piano on guitar, his voice drowned out by the crowds singing “put your weight on my shoulders”. Ending the song with him on a Trumpet of all things, while this song certainly puts Rou in the spotlight, it’s all held together by the ridiculously tight Rory, Chris and Rob.
The next song sees his piano and his wireless mic cut out after the intro to Juggernauts, ‘Look at us, we’re headlining and already we think we’re good enough to use wireless mics…what have we become!’ jokes Rou, who brushes off the whole incident by swimming back to the stage with a lucky ‘nimble’ audience member. With a smile stretched from ear to ear, from not only Rou but the rest of the band as they watch on.
This was the same story for the whole of the crowd tonight, everywhere I looked, people smiling, singing along, have a good dance and overall having a great time. It’s the same story every time I see Enter Shikari, but they certainly kicked it up a gear tonight. The gig was a spectacle from start to finish, every song was spot on, the lighting as always was on another level, helped by the huge screen behind the band displaying all sorts of visuals from song to song. There’s no doubt in my mind that Enter Shikari deserve to be playing these size venues, the future is bright for this band. Go see them!
Review: Francis Sebestjanowicz
Photograph courtesy of PR by Corinne Cumming