Enter Shikari visited Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena on the seventh stop of what will be a worldwide tour last Friday. Immediately you knew you were in the right place just by surveying the crowd; the cult following of the experimental-rock quartet were out in force, with what seemed like every third person rocking explosively dyed hair. This devoted support of the band was demonstrated in a conversation between two fans beside me, wondering whether this was the sixth or the seventh time they’d seen Shikari live.
Doors opened at the curiously early time of 6:30pm, but after you’d queued and grabbed a (preposterously overpriced) drink, there wasn’t too much waiting around before the nights first support band: Astroid Boys. The south Wales group did a good job getting some energy into the room, despite it being far from full at this point, playing a half hour set of their trademark fusion of rock and grime.
The second support act were Lower Than Atlantis, a band very much cut from the same cloth as Enter Shikari, though perhaps more orthodox and less intense. Hence the swelling crowd responded predictably enthusiastically to their eight-track set. It began with Had Enough, the lead track from their February released album Safe In Sound. Two more tracks from the album also featured, though their best reception was for their final song, 2014’s Here We Go. A suitable track to introduce Shikari.
The crowd had now filled out the large section of the Barclaycard Arena dedicated to the gig, and as the clock ticked past 9:10pm the lights dimmed and an eerie electronic voice over the tannoy began setting the scene. The quartet burst onto the scene 10 minutes later with their latest hit, and one of my personal favourites, The Sights. They would go on to play seven songs from their September album The Spark. While this album is sometimes criticised by diehard fans for easing off the screamo vibe of classic Shikari, the Birmingham crowd couldn’t have been more enthusiastic on the night. And whilst there is a definitely more mainstream appeal to The Spark than in previous Shikari offerings, for the more casual follower (such as myself) this actually represents an improvement. I find the high-energy remains without causing one to pick a fight with the nearest brick-wall.
The remaining nine tracks played on the night were a greatest hits compilation from the last ten years of Enter Shikari. Solidarity, Arguing With Thermometers, and Zzzonked were predictably lively, drawing huge mosh pits in the centre of the arena, and their medley of four huge hits (Sorry, You’re Not a Winner / Sssnakepit / …Meltdown / Antwerpen), each according to lead singer Rou Reynolds played at 147bpm, provided eight very blurry minutes of exhilaration.
However this gig was not just 80 minutes of fireworks as the band showed a subtler touch just past half-way. Coming off the back of Rabble Rouser the stage fell dark and a few minutes later Reynolds and drummer Rob Rolfe appeared at back of the arena. Here they played Airfields and Adieu, two of the more touching tracks on the set-list. The former in particular, about “the darkest year of [Reynold’s] life”, had several in my vicinity in tears. Aside from that, the two-song break from the melee was much needed, and showed good sense of pacing from the band.
Come the end of the final song, Zzzonked, the crowd were still baying for more, encouraged by Shikari’s provocative suggestion that the Manchester crowd may have been better. The encore was Redshift and Live Outside, hence ending the set with another from 2017’s The Spark, and another personal favourite of mine. We left the Arena drenched in sweat and without much of a voice, which I’m sure is what the band would have wanted.