Enter Shikari Live at Keele SU Review
By Ryan Hutton
Photo by Tom Pullen (@tompullenphoto)
Enter Shikari have spent their careers fighting climate change, racism and social injustice, but one fight that they struggled to overcome last night was the sweat-soaked Ballroom in Keele SU. “This stage is getting very slippery” front man Rou Reynolds (with his hair continuing to cement its place as one of the most ballistic styles in modern day music) stated approximately three songs into a fist-pounding set. Naturally, this was shortly after telling the audience that he had made a bet with guitarist Rory “Rory C” Clewlow about lasting longer than three songs in his staple Winter coat. Welcome to Keele, boys.
I have to commend the four-piece rock/electronic/metal/just-about-every-other-genre outfit on making use of the Ballroom’s very limited capabilities. Unlike the past four Enter Shikari shows I have seen, there was no large screen behind them to showcase some bizarre imagery (unfortunately for Keele residents, that meant there was no naked Donald Trump this time), or interesting light techniques on display. Instead what Keele got was a very stripped back show with only Sparky, the band’s current icon that doubles up as a keyboard, on stage. I fear that those who love the grander showmanship of Enter Shikari may not have taken as much away from this gig as they would have in another venue. Those who love the personal showmanship of Enter Shikari, however, will have walked away from this gig feeling very satisfied, and very alive.
As with past shows, Enter Shikari did not fail to make its audience feel an unrelenting surge of adrenaline, with a little melancholy thrown in there for good measure. There is passion to be found in their performance, passion that resonated with the voices and actions of the audience, of whom all around me were intensely enjoying themselves. And I was too. As an enormous Enter Shikari fan, seeing them perform at my home university put me in one of the most comfortable positions I have been in for a while, and this is coming from somebody who does not prefer large crowds of people in a small space. Tears welled in my eyes as the band cooled down with the slower Airfield, I moshed hard to Labyrinth, and I even had the opportunity to do what my friend called the “Cotton-Eyed Joe Dance” in a mosh pit. Along with the rest of the crowd, I went through the usual motions that I go through at an Enter Shikari gig. It was very comforting, and it is highly commendable that four men on stage have the power to create such a community using some of the best (broadly speaking) modern rock music in the industry to date.
Yet, as I walked away from the Ballroom last night after going through the standard motions of Enter Shikari gig, I could not help but feel that I had already seen this gig before. Aside from a few lovely surprises (none of which I will spoil, but get ready for what follows Airfield if you are seeing a future gig) a lot of what the band gave the audience was to be expected at an Enter Shikari gig. Rou walks on in his winter coat, calls everybody “carbon-based lifeforms” (an excellent phrase nonetheless), the band play, there is a quick-fire round in which they cram as many songs as possible into, and the band leave. For a fan seeing them for the first time, this will have been the best gig of their lives (possibly even the best night of their lives). But, for this fan, there was nothing that set it apart from other Enter Shikari gigs. Not in a way that it felt lacklustre, but in a way that makes me question whether the band can do much more in the confines of venues that are not enormous stadiums. Still, there are very few who would want to sit at an Enter Shikari gig, and a show in the rather limiting Ballroom is not a venue to make a proper judgement regarding the matter.
In terms of the set list, you had your Shikari classics such as Mothership and Arguing with Thermometers infused with stuff from their newer, calmer album, The Spark, with a few of the band’s lesser played songs such as Hectic (a personal thank you for that one, lads). The pacing of the set was well done, with appropriate intervals that allowed for breathing space for both the sweaty band and crowd. Most importantly, it was delivered with the kind of energy you expect from Enter Shikari, and with smiles plastered onto the faces of all four band members. Of course, you had Rou dancing and throwing himself around the stage like some sort of beautiful gremlin, but you also had bassist Chris Batten getting more involved than most bassists would. He and Rou worked off of each other spectacularly on stage. The biggest surprise, however, was the presence of drummer Rob Rolfe. If there was anybody on that stage of who was having the time of his life, it was Mr Rolfe, who came forward a few times to thank the Keele audience for their support and show off his shirt and tie (a very flattering look, I must say). His audience interaction using the bass drum at points was duly noted and well appreciated. Being the second stop on their Stop the Clocks tour, the band had very little more to say other than “we’re back, and we’re lovin’ it.”
Perhaps that is the most important part of live music. I once saw Fall Out Boy at Leeds Festival as they were finishing up their world tour, and they look sad and dejected. Somewhat understandable after a world tour, but nonetheless it sunk the mood of the audience immediately. Ultimately, the most unfortunate thing was that the band were not enjoying themselves doing what they, presumably, love. And thus, it brings a warm pleasure to my heart that, after five albums, Enter Shikari continue to deliver every performance with absolute passion and enjoyment. Though the show overall felt a little standard, the bands’ performances and interaction with each other were laced with something a little special- something that continues to place them as currently one of the best live bands in the world. As always, the show left me itching for another, despite the state it left my neck in
A quick after note: I only caught the final few songs of second support band, Milk Teeth, but check them out if you have time. I will be very surprised if the music world does not see more of them in the future.