The journey from the modest, closure-threatened Pioneer Skate Park in St Albans, to the sheer expanse and prestige of Alexandra Palace may have been a long one, but lead singer Rou Reynolds tells us: “it feels like it was all leading to this moment”.
There’s a slight contradiction to this statement, considering he had earlier proclaimed that the electronicore/alternative rock outfit having a headliner slot at Ally Pally “defies the laws of physics", but while this sense of destiny and defiance of the universe may appear paradoxical at face value, it perhaps only makes any sense when applied to Enter Shikari.
Their rise has been meteoric; they are yet to release an average album, and have what is more or less a resident spot at the Reading and Leeds festivals. Despite this, Reynolds is within his rights to point out how rare it is for a band who are independent and politicised to both play and fill the likes of this gargantuan space. So while this milestone show may be a lab experiment gone wrong, it is certainly a violently frothing, explosive concoction to be remembered.
As almost every attendee chants the band’s famous line, 'and still we will be here, standing like statues', as they wait in anticipation, screams erupt as Rory Clewlow, Chris Batten, and Rob Rolfe follow Reynolds on stage as he rewards his ‘mindsweepers’ by screaming back the words they had only been chanting moments ago. For members of the press, and pacifists, hoping to avoid an elbow to the face, it turns out to be a tricky task, as mosh pits open up at the front, back, and sides, like DNA microcosms desperately seeking to intertwine. As Shikari launch through Solidarity, Sorry You’re Not a Winner, and the majestic The One True Colour, it becomes quickly apparent that the set list fittingly comprises their whole discography, and that their music is more than adequately filling the great hall.
In fact, we receive a very concerted effort to cover as many songs as possible within the hour and a half playing time, which means medleys aplenty: The Last Garrison leads straight into the final chorus of No Sleep Tonight; Slipshod into The Jester; and we are later treated to a brief, solo piano version of Juggernaughts. Each song is accompanied by a short film, the best of which being beautiful cinematography of the ocean accompanying Torn Apart and its lyrics, 'sinking, I don’t know how we’ll get to shore again; sinking, we’ll surface through the waves'.
Thankfully, the quartet also play to one of their biggest strengths, which is never taking themselves too seriously, despite the political nature of their songs. A Monty Python-esque illustration of Gandhi interrupts Gandhi Mate, Gandhi mid-song in an attempt to calm them down, by talking about Robbie Williams. This prompts the band to launch into Angels by the Staffordshire-born man himself, and predictably, the entire room joins in en-masse. If anyone in the crowd said they saw that coming afterwards, they were lying.
About half way into the show, there’s a disorientating moment where Reynolds is heard speaking, but no one is sure where he is. It turns out he’s somehow reached a piano, dead centre in the venue. Once all eyes are on him, he performs Dear Future Historians, then climbs on top of the instrument to thrash away at his guitar as the band join in, some feet away on the main stage. This is all yet another wonderful touch, and at the time of writing, fans are still hotly debating how Mr. Reynolds got to the piano and back to the stage again. Did he sneak through the crowd? Is there a secret tunnel? Who knows.
The night ends with Anaesthetist, Enter Shikari’s furious lament against NHS cuts, and The Appeal and The Mindsweep II. With muscles aching, bruises sustained, and items of footwear lost, it’s probably sensible to call it a night there. We may have been told that the band’s career was “all leading to this moment”, but it’s very important not to misinterpret that sentence with any sense of finality. Here is a band at the height of their powers, who have reached the big league completely on their own terms, with no sign of going back. As the attendees stream out of Alexandra Palace and drink in the beautiful London skyline, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think there’ll be several more moments like this for team Shikari.
Review by Adam Protz (5/5)