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Enter Shikari: Ally Pally Revisited

Last year, St Albans noise-melters, Enter Shikari, played Alexandra Palace, the London date of their first ever arena tour. It was a night marked by an air of triumphalism, with singer Rou Reynolds constantly alluding to the 'surreal' nature of the evening, and how a band like them probably weren’t within their rights to be playing in such a historic and enormous building. With that being said, this second Ally Pally outing is less of a novelty, and feels more like just a big Enter Shikari show. That’s not to say it’s any less special; if anything, the quartet somehow improve on the previous outing, and prove that it was by no means the peak of their career.

The mere fact they’ve managed to establish themselves to playing such hallowed halls, even after their brave change in sound heralded by their latest album, The Spark, adds to a long list of feats in Shikari lore. They open with new single The Sights, all suited and booted. Rou’s evolution as a frontman has also brought forth Lennon-esque glasses and a larger than life haircut that, depending on where you stand, will leave you either feeling highly jealous, or fearing for his mental health.

As the poppier opener is followed by the high-octane Solidarity from their second album, the tone is set for the evening: this gig is one that at times resembles a disco, and at others a kung-fu movie. If this sounds like a horribly disjointed affair, you’d be wrong, it’s just something that only Enter Shikari are able to pull off. The momentum never drops, particularly as the band ditch the interludes from last year and keep the hits coming.

Rou announces “we’re gonna take things waaaaay back,” as the refrain from Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour is heard, a song written and performed back when the band were touring youth centres in a white van. They decidedly keep this as the heavy portion of the evening — the crowd turn animalistic as Aneasthetist, Sssnakepit and Sorry You’re Not A Winner risk the stability of this listed building.

Another repeated trick is Rou inexplicably appearing in the middle of the venue at a piano, only this time joined by drummer, Rob Rolfe, leaving everyone in a double-drummer saloon type situation. You really begin to notice the raw power of the quadrophonic sound (the huge speakers placed at the front and back of the venue). At some points, the bass is so fearsome, you fear your organs will explode (I’m only half exaggerating).

To pinpoint what it is that makes this an improved Enter Shikari at Alexandra Palace event, it has to be the inclusion of their new songs. Their maturity as songs themselves, the performance of them, and the fact they are able to both stand their own, and amongst the rest of the Shikari oeuvre. Their Brexit song, Take My Country Back, the brilliant Rabble Rouser, which really does rouse the rabble, and one of their most sing-alongable tracks to date, Undecover Agents, being one of the lofty high points of the evening. Rou, Rory, Rob, and Chris make the wise decision to end with Live Outside, arguably one of the finest songs they’ve written. Despite the dark source material being Rou’s struggles with anxiety, it sees out the night with euphoric dancing.

People often wonder what is the appeal of these kind of shows; why one would wish to shout their lungs out, all the while facing the risk of an elbow to the face? I can only speak for myself in saying that it’s a stunning, cathartic experience. I doubt I’m the only person who leaves the North London venue feeling a great shift inside myself, after such an intense release of emotions indoors. Enter Shikari are a band who have won several Kerrang! Awards for best live act. Now that they’ve transcended their Kerrang! status, it’s time for them to be recognised as one of the world’s best live bands, period.

Review by Adam Protz / Photo by Tom Pullen