Nottingham – 20 February 2016
Bournemouth- 22 February 2016
I have been totally unashamed over the past 18-months to tell anyone who will listen that Enter Shikari are the best live band on the planet right now. I have spent two of the last three evenings at Enter Shikari’s show in Nottingham and Bournemouth and on Saturday I will be at Alexandra Palace for the final episode of the UK leg of their first headline arena tour. I have to tell you that I have perhaps been guilty of underplaying Enter Shikari.
It is impossible to categorise Enter Shikari they don’t fit neatly into any genre and perhaps that is what marks them out as the best band of their generation. If you take the energy, anger and sheer rebelliousness of the very best late 1970’s punk bands, add in the ability of the best stadium rock bands to hold an audience in the palm of their hands you still have not seen the full picture. You still need to add a touch of electronica, the odd rap beat and the desire to put on the best show they can, every time, and now you are at least getting close.
I drove the 200 miles to Nottingham on Saturday with very high expectations. Those expectations were surpassed in a way I didn’t think possible, Enter Shikari quite simply smashed it, they hit the ball right out of the park.
It may be that Enter Shikari are perfectionist’s and that is undoubtably true. When I rolled up to interview the boys in Nottingham they were hard at work in the dressing room. Just hours before the show they were reprogramming lighting sequences and thrashing out ways to improve on what they had done in Glasgow and Edinburgh on the previous evenings.
That attention to detail pays off and perfectly compliments Enter Shikari’s desire to innovate. You would be forgiven for thinking that in the days of incredible light shows, amazing sound and the use of computers there is little that we haven’t already seen at rock concerts. You would be wrong.
This tour sees Enter Shikari introduce surround sound into their live performances. I’m not talking a couple of speakers added at the back of the vast cavern that is Nottingham’s 10,000 capacity Motorpoint arena. I’m talking true surround sound, elements of songs assaulting you from behind something that really came to the fore during phenomenal renditions of “The One True Colour” and the recently released “Redshift.” The film clips on the enormous screen behind the band added to the sense of theatre and were carefully produced to add a visual element to the songs if you can drag your eyes away from the spectacle that an Enter Shikari performance already provides.
It is a wrench to take your eyes off Reynolds and his bandmates as they perform but you are well advised to take a moment to appreciate the pure spectacle of it all. As the show continued Enter Shikari encouraged us to absorb the spectacle in it’s entirety when Reynolds disappeared to reappear at a piano on an elevated platform situated within the sound desk enclosure in the centre of the arena whilst the rest of the band remained on stage. Admittedly there were a few technical hitches during this section of the show in Nottingham but this had been put right in Bournemouth.
When power to the piano dropped off Reynolds climbed on top of it to play guitar and a bit of trumpet. Unfortunately getting power back would have caused an interruption to the flow of the show so Rou grabbed an audience member and they had a crowd surfing race back to the stage.
We even had a comedy moment when at the beginning of “Ghandi Mate, Ghandi” Enter Shikari had the audience singing along to Robbie Williams “Angels.” It may seem a little bizarre, Enter Shikari are a very long way from Robbie Williams, but in my view it shows a band that are more than willing to have a laugh amidst songs that frequently tackle the really big issues of the day.
Make no mistake these shows elevated Enter Shikari from simply being the best live band around at the moment. In my opinion this tour takes Enter Shikari to a totally new level. In over 40 years of attending live gigs and festivals I estimate I have seen somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 bands. These shows earn Enter Shikari the right to be seen in the same light as some of the best performances I have ever seen. I would go as far as to say that only the first time I saw Springsteen perform sits ahead of Enter Shikari in terms of totally absorbing, jaw-dropping brilliance.
During last year’s festival season we heard much questioning about the rock bands who will replace the classic rock bands who headlines the UK’s major music festivals at present. Well, over the course of the last three days I saw one. Enter Shikari are building momentum. In my opinion they already have the stage presence and charisma to headline any festival main stage you care to name.
Enter Shikari have come up the hard way, they have played the pub gigs and moved purposefully to filling arena’s. Enter Shikari’s band members, Rou Reynolds, Rob Rolfe, Rory Clewlow and Chris Batten are all just hitting 30-years-old. They are approaching the peak of their creativity and if ever a band were destined for stadium rock and major festival headline slots it is Enter Shikari.
As I readied myself for the Bournemouth show I wondered how the show that Enter Shikari had pulled together would translate to a considerably smaller venue. Surely the giant screen and the surround sound could not work so well in a smaller venue. Wrong! If anything it was even better.
The crowd in Bournemouth can be a fickle bunch and were a little more muted than in Nottingham for the support bands. Both The King Blues and The Wonder Years had an incredible reception in Nottingham and were well received in Bournemouth but maybe the crowd were less familiar with their material at the latter. There was no such concern for Enter Shikari as the auditorium simply erupted as they took the stage and that energy was palpable throughout the set. The noise from the crowd was incredible as they sang along, shouted their lungs out and generally got lost in an incredible musical experience.
After the Bournemouth show the UK leg wraps up with shows in Cardiff, Wrexham, Manchester and Alexandra Palace in London. There are a limited number of tickets available for all but Wrexham. If you are anywhere near any of these venues I urge you to get along to a show if you possibly can.
As the crowd left both venues the buzz was simple. Time and again I heard the comment “that was the best show I have ever seen.” The fact is that after taking in two shows in a couple of days I have only one disappointment. I will only see one more show on this tour. So good has this tour been that I truly wish that I had attended every show on the UK leg.
Words And Photographs by Alan Ewart: you can follow Alan on Twitter at @soundofmysummer or on the internet at soundofsummer.org and you can read more posts by Alan at his Louder Than War author’s archive