For all the retina-scorching lasers and lights here, all the furious mash-ups of cutting-edge dance, hardcore and hip-hop culture, arguably the most striking moment of Enter Shikari’s triumphant appearance at this historic North London is an old-fashioned slice of theatre as Rou Reynolds leaves the stage to deliver a beautifully understated reading of ‘Dear Future Historians…’ on a piano in the middle of the auditorium. The mosh pits temporarily cease, the volume falls and 9,000 people lend their voices as Reynolds climbs on top of the piano to deliver the closing ‘Put your weight on my shoulders’ lyric bathed in white light. It’s a moment of beautiful communion on an evening when the Hertfordshire quartet stake their claim as the most idiosyncratic and significant band of their generation.
A decade on from becoming the first unsigned band since The Darkness to sell-out the (sadly now demolished) Astoria theatre, Shikari continue to do things their own way, and on their own terms. Tonight, in a building originally created as ‘The People’s Palace’, is a wonderful vindication of the DIY principles and stubbornly independent mindset which has underpinned every step on that journey. There is much talk beforehand of this tour’s state of the art production and Quadrophonic sound system, but when all the (hugely impressive) bells and whistles are stripped away, the overwhelming impression here is of four young men communicating directly to their audience in a language of their own making.
Perhaps this is why, outside the specialist rock press, Enter Shikari have the lowest of profiles. In fairness, were one to judge a band’s relevance and popularity by chart statistics alone, Shikari would barely be on the radar. And yet here, songs such as Destabilise, Radiate and No Sleep Tonight (UK singles chart positions 65, 79 and 63 respectively) are greeted like timeless anthems, sung back at the stage with an intensity that borders on hysteria. It’s a measure of the band’s confidence that fanbase-pleasers such as Sorry You’re Not A Winner and The Last Garrison appear so early on the set-list, and in truth it’s when the quartet introduce “the rowdy part of the set” with (The Mindsweep bonus track) Slipshod and The Jester that tonight’s gig moves onto a new level.
It’s during the mid-set piano section though where one starts to rack one’s brain to think of another rock band capable of pulling off such a spectacular and yet open-hearted show on this level. Among their contemporaries, the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine and You Me At Six operate at a similar level, but none have managed a production this audacious or compelling, nor can draw an audience so committed and fervent. And so when talk will turn once more, as it inevitably does, and rightly should, to the next British band capable of taking the step up to festival headliner status on these islands, on this evidence only a fool would ignore Shikari. But that, perhaps, is for another day. In the present, Enter Shikari deserve huge credit for what is an unforgettable evening. In the future, on this showing, they need fear nothing.