“We are going in hard,” Rou Reynolds declares during …Meltdown, ushering in gut-rattling bass wobbles that make this cavernous arena feel more like the deepest belly of a warehouse rave. Enter Shikari are a rock band in the broadest sense – moshpits break out instantly – but their trademark is a zealous fusion of dubstep, emo and electro tied up in sociopolitical commentary of varying efficacy.
The St Albans quartet have a catalogue that varies so liberally that, for every song you swerve, there’s another that might be right up your street. Only they can say if their stylistic fluidity is completely organic or a box-ticking exercise, but they’re doing something right. Last year’s A Kiss for the Whole World, the band’s seventh album since 2007, was their first UK No 1 and tonight’s Leeds date marks the beginning of their first UK arena tour.
“Shall we test out this sound system?” frontman Reynolds asks. Their song Anaesthetist is perfect for the job. “You fucking spanner!” he screams, injecting inherently British humour into a scathing attack on healthcare privatisation. It darts from grime-flavoured verses to thrashy choruses, building to a crushing deathcore breakdown – and Reynolds is yet to whip his trumpet out. That happens on Jailbreak, as huge vertical lasers surround the stage. “Inside of you there’s a revolution waiting to happen”, Reynolds spits, before diving into a mass of bodies and disappearing out of view.
The band are no strangers to big stages – they’ve performed at scores of major festivals across Europe – and they ably match the arena scale here with a sensory tour de force. During Sssnakepit, the screen behind Rob Rolfe’s drum riser morphs into a moving, luminous green depiction of the Snake video game, which then switches to pogoing clown faces for The Jester’s big beat finale. Just when a change of pace is needed, Reynolds scales one of the giant, accompanying cuboid screens with his guitar for a solo rendition of Juggernauts. “I’m gonna play this one so slowly with so many dramatic pauses”, he says, playing up to the arena-rock cliche.
Enter Shikari broke their band in the mid-2000s with the help of Myspace – when curating an audience on the internet was still a revolutionary act, and emo, striped windbreaker jackets and perfectly coiffed fringes were everywhere (they channel that era’s energy on 2006’s Sorry, You’re Not a Winner). Both the band and the thirtysomething fans in attendance have long retired the glow sticks and left the teenage growing pains behind, but this feels like the beginning of Enter Shikari’s greatest chapter as much as a victory lap two decades in the making.
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