By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
Sure, you might be bored of my Enter Shikari live reviews, but trust me pal, I sure ain’t bored of writing or experiencing them. As always, we’re live from the pit as St. Albans’ favourite sons take to the stage at Arena Birmingham. Birmingham Arena? The NIA.
It’s no secret that I loved and still love The Spark. As soon as The Spark made way for The Sights, my face lit up like a Christmas tree, and when the same happened to kick off Friday’s show, I didn’t so much mosh, jump or dance–I floated on the feelgood air. Rather interestingly, compared to last week’s Royal Blood gig, the arena was half-sized. The stage was probably one half, three quarters up the arena with the seating largely covered off.
But that’s fine, intimacy is Shikari’s bread & butter. Plus, they’ve packed out venues like the Victoria Warehouse & Alexandra Palace with incredible ease, and the NIABarclaycardArenaBirminghamBirminghamArena is an absolute t h i c c b o i of an arena. However, the half size arena made for a tasty blend of hard pitting, as during Solidarity, I ended up at the back, at the front, in the bar, and somehow in Solihull.
Another comment on the intimacy: the quadrophonic sound was fucking unreal, as I didn’t really notice it that much at 2016’s Alleh Palleh gig, but the balls of bass and woomphs of waves made you stop halfway through a song to wonder just what that noise was.
Speaking of stopping halfway through a song, my theory is that Shikari ‘make mistakes’ to build the hype up even further. Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour was stopped due to a Rolfy-related mishap, i.e. his drumstick breaking off and moving straight into the beat for Zzzzzzzonked. Which, ACHITNHH at Zzzzzzzzzzonked’s BPM would be a different gravy, but the song was stopped for a bit of on stage banter, which is always good instead of instruments being slammed to the ground. The Shikari boys really feel like good friends and people you want to be friends with.
Song restarted, we all went in harder and with more vigor than ever before. Are Shikari deliberately stacking the deck to get us going wild? I sure bloody hope so.
Take My Country Back is an amazing live tune, again bringing a really positive vibe to the gig. I’ll defend The Spark as one Shikari’s finest albums until I’m blue in the face, but every track that’s played live off the album is another kettle of fish. Rou, in his own words was too busy “mincing around” to remember his trumpet solo, but that being said, we were all too busy “moshing around” to remember his trumpet solo.
As Shikari sets go, it was more on the rowdy end of the spectrum, with no let up between Anything Can Happen… through to Take My Country Back with The Last Garrison and Radiate making sure that there was no time to catch your breath as most of Undercover Agents was spent just recovering, knowing that the hectic part of the set was still to come. Was Arguing With Thermometers with a quick switchup into Rabble Rouser the rowdy part? No, this was merely the starter, a mushroom soup before a feast. Not to brag, but during Rabble Rouser I pulled two people up at the same time off the floor, so if you ask me why I’m at the gym, it’s not to lose weight and promote a healthy lifestyle, it means that the team are never let down when I’m on pitroll.
The set design was amazing, with the big circular screen really changing the size & dynamic of the stage. Only complaint is the strobe lights blinding you as you sallied forth into the pit, but the visual aspect coupled with the sublime quadrophonic sound created an unbeatable atmosphere. I don’t want to keep prattling on about the arena size, but the smaller venue really, really added to the atmosphere. It was great.
More than any other song, I was looking forward to Airfield the most. It delivered spoons of emotion and was beautiful in every single way. Same goes for a piano version of Adieu which is really something I hope makes a live album, and the Routron 5000 mix at the end creating a huge feel-good crescendo. What a lovely, happy, calm atmosphere oh holy fuck did Rou just say they’re going to play 4 songs in 7 minutes at 174bpm?
Sorry You’re Not in a Anterwerpen Snakepit caused me to have a complete Meltdown as my beans were lost within the first thirty seconds. But Meltdown! Antwerpen! Drink it in sports fans, there’s nothing quite like these two bad boys jumping into the setlist. But wait! There’s more! Because after seven, eight, probably twelve if you count the fact Anaesthetist kicked this rambunctious part of the set off, the only song that could be played at this point is Zzzzonked. I gave what little I had left in my body for that song, knowing that the encore would be soothing.
At some point Rou’s shirt got torn, and at some point during Redshift or Live Outside he decided to do away with it entirely, whilst doing yoga against the speaker stack. So far this year I’ve seen him appear through the trapdoor of a stage, drink several gin & tonics, seen him half naked and perform yoga and I don’t even know him personally. Whatever 2018 has in store for the Shikari boys, they’ll have to pull out all the stops to top what has been an exemplary year for them both in the studio and on the road.
I didn’t like Live Outside at first, but now I love it, and for the entirety of that final song, I floated around the arena, belting out every last word. Also caught Rory C’s pick and didn’t have time to throw him one back. Apologies, Rory.
I’ve seen Shikari three times this year, and all three times they’ve blown it out of the park. Absolutely outstanding.