Putting together a good bill is a difficult task. Sometimes the stars can align, schedules are free and the world gets Trivium with Code Orange, Power Trip and Venom Prison. Other times you get Dizzee Rascal supporting Muse. Yes, that did actually happen. When a band as fluid with genre boundaries as Enter Shikari announces a tour, wild speculation breaks out about who will be joining them, or indeed, why a certain band is on the bill. Tonight is no exception as a varied line up graces the frequently gig-bereft Leicester City.
Rising stars, Black Peaks open up the night. For a band skyrocketing their way through venue capacity boundaries the floor is oddly sparse as ‘Glass Built Castles’ envelops the building. Their grandeur and multifaceted virtuosity seems to fall largely on deaf ears as, save for a few die hards at the front, the attendees’ response is heavily muted. Some early comers fail to even give applause.
The band plays through their set with their usual stunning proficiency, but a cramped stage and mostly disengaged crowd seem to knock the quartet’s confidence. There’s an awkwardness to Will Gardner at first, perhaps simply disappointment at the poor showing Leicester gives, but by their second song the band clearly decide it’s time to have their own fun. They relish the response from those who rightfully go ballistic at a pitch-perfect showing of ‘Can’t Sleep’, and Gardener’s masterful vocals leave even the uninterested undeniably stunned in the climax of ‘The Midnight Sun’.
After a disappointing lack of affection shown to Peaks, an amorous army hailed the arrival of Palaye Royale. The room was split in two between those simply waiting through yet another support band and those filled with nervous energy waiting for something truly special to confirm their obsessions. A Drum and Bass intro track blasts out over the speakers before four immaculately groomed men stride on stage with egos bigger than their Broadway-style banner; an image that burns the band’s name onto the retinas of the crowd. The drummer is sporting a cut up Bathory shirt, despite the fact that he plays the same drab 4/4 beat for every song – there is no way in hell this man has heard of Jonas Åkerlund – and the guitarist looks as if he has wandered out of a Razorlight tribute set. There’s an image dichotomy going on here, curious given how long they must have taken doing their hair.
The songs lack any originality or vigour in the performance, they are simply stage pieces to act as interludes between posing for photographs. “Fuck you” bleats lead singer Remington Leith in a manner that should be followed by ‘Mum, I’ll do my homework later’, in a desperately vain attempt to look like a Rock n’Roll bad guy. Zack De La Rocha’s spirit truly lives on in him… As every second fades away into the next, the abject horror of the reality that Palaye Royale are still on stage becomes an existential nightmare. Reality folds in upon itself as teenage girls lap up Leith’s empty sentiments, and a Nietzschean abyss swallows the soul. Utterly contrived, vacuous, meritless, contemptuous, narcissistic, talentless tripe. A waste of time better spent visiting the toilet. Sanitised Rock n’Roll for the Tik Tok generation.
How best to wash away such a bitter taste?
Perhaps with one of the UK’s least definable bands. Is it metallic post-Hardcore, is it Pop, or is it some sublime amalgamation of the two dreamt up by four endlessly ambitious men from Brighton? Who cares, it slams. Dry ice pours out onto the stage as the quartet take their positions before blasting into an uplifting and wholly joyous rendition of ‘The Sights’ from their latest album, The Spark (Ambush Reality/ PIAS Recordings). The soul and earnestness of Rou Reynolds flows from the stage washing over the mighty crowd resulting in a sing-along you’d more likely find at the end of a set.
The volume of the audience is baffling and clearly catches the band off guard as they beam their way through a perfectly constructed set. Moments of levity, heartbreak, moshing and dancing segue beautifully into one another. Jovial synth throbs around the venue thanks to Shikari’s patented quadrophonic sound approach to live shows, and every note is played live. Where many bands would relegate this aspect of musicality to being played from a track over the PA, the dedication to performance is encapsulated in this decision to actually play.
While synthesisers may be the first motif brought to mind thinking about Enter Shikari, what many forget is just how crushingly heavy they can be. ‘Labyrinth’ from their debut album, Take To The Skies (Ambush Reality), smashes the venue in two with a Slayer-levels-of-manic pit erupting on the heaving dance floor. Every member shows their musical dexterity, not least Rob Rolfe, who is able to carry swinging dance beats through the likes of ‘Undercover Agents’, and blast beats on encore opener, ‘Juggernauts’.
Chris Batten juggles bass and synth duties with professionalism and swagger, playing intensely and purposefully, but enjoying himself all the while, and Liam Clewlow proves himself to still be a riff machine in gut-busting fashion on ‘Rabble Rouser’ and ‘The Paddington Frisk’. Rou is a ball of energy as he throws his charmingly awkward shapes around the room, hurling himself between microphones and not allowing the audience any respite, save for a gorgeously tender moment in the piano-led ‘Airfield’. Add this to his trumpet playing on ‘Shinrin-yoku’ and you see an astoundingly talented musician before you, who just so happens to be an uncontainable frontman.
The ‘Quickfire Round’ – a staple of the Shikari live set – signals the arrival of fan favourites that can’t get a full airing due to time constraints, but those claps of ‘Sorry You’re Not a Winner’ are enough to make up for brevity. ‘The Last Garrison’, ‘…Meltdown’ and ‘Anaesthetist’ round out the section in riotous fashion, satiating the need for dancing and moshing in one fell swoop, as does the unexpected but sublime cover of Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’. As the set draws to an unfortunate yet inevitable close, the band’s thanks feel so desperately heartfelt that there’s a sadness to see it all end. The awe-inspiring light show and second appearance of confetti canons signal finale, ‘Live Outside’; a joyous ode to not allowing oneself to succumb to the difficulties of anxiety, and succeeding in the face of adversity.
There is no pretence to the show. Great swathes of the music might be synthetic, but the raw emotion and care Shikari have for humanity is not. Not so much a show as a life-affirming event. Not just a reason to dance, but a reason to see the good in life, and a reason to keep going. If the world had more bands like Enter Shikari, it would be a far better place.