Enter Shikari Live In Manchester – What Happened?

Back longer ago than I care to admit, I had a ticket at my town’s student’s union for a little known band called Enter Shikari. In the end I couldn’t make it. My parent’s had been selfish enough to book a surprise family holiday that inconsiderately clashed with the gig. As a result, it was 16 years before I got the opportunity to see the band again, though in a venue considerably bigger than Stockport SU.

What that night did, however, was cement in my mind just how good a band Enter Shikari are, and just how much they mean to their fans. It’s for that reason that when their current run of residency shows was announced, I jumped at the opportunity to catch them again on the first of three monthly shows at Manchester’s New Century Hall.

Arriving in the recently reopened venue just as main support pop punks NOAHFIINCE take to the stage, the first thing that’s noticeable is just how poppy they are in comparison to the headliners. This isn’t really a criticism, however. It’s bright, breezy, and inoffensive, a prime example of just where contemporary pop-punk is these days.

The only complaints that can be levelled are at the hit and miss sound quality which admittedly seems to sort itself out as the set progresses, and the overall safe, generic nature of the music itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clear that those in the crowd whose backs don’t ache of a morning are into it, but for someone who grew up listening to the likes of Blink-182, Green Day and New Found Glory, this is paint-by-numbers pop-punk which, while done well enough, will do little to excite anyone over the age of 21. That said, there is potential there, and I expect the ­­UK’s alternative scene will be seeing a lot more from NOAHFIINCE in the future. They’ve certainly earned themselves a few new fans this evening.

Of course, it’s the headliners that everyone is here for. And given the sheer amount of Shikari merch being adorned throughout the crowd, it’s clear that they mean just as much to their northern fans as they did the 10,000 southern fans who packed Alexandra Palace the first time we saw them.

Tonight, is markedly more intimate however. Though sold out, there’s only 800 of us in attendance, though as Rou Reynolds and band take to the stage, the roar that greets them belies just how intimate tonight feels.

Opening with recent single ‘(pls) Set Me On Fire’, it’s a soaring start with the notable lack of guitarist Rory Clewlow. It soon becomes clear that there’s sound issues affecting the guitar, though the track is soon restarted and Clewlow takes his place on stage without hindrance this time.

From here on out the pace is picked up as the band rattle through material that spans the entirety of their career. The first part of the set feels given over the recent likes of ‘The Void Stares Back’ and ‘It Hurts’, though ‘Juggernauts’ makes a weighty early appearance.

What the band are terming a ‘quickfire’ round sees them dig deep into their back catalogue. An extended medley of material includes debut album cuts such as ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’, ‘Anything Can Happen In the Next Half Hour’ and a frantic outing of ‘Labyrinth’, as mosh pits open and bodies are sent hurtling across the top of crowd.

They close the quickfire round with a soaring rendition of the Everything Everything-esque ‘Live Outside’. An optimistic affair and arguably the band’s poppiest release yet, it only furthers the crowd’s furore, to such a point that when the band disappear offstage, the chants of ‘Ohhh Enter Shikari’ that erupt instantly are almost-deafening.

As one might expect, they’re not quite finished with us yet, and the chants turn to roars as the band emerge back on stage and launch straight into deep cut ‘Stand Your Ground; This is Ancient Land’. It’s weighty, and punishing, a far cry from the track they left the stage to. But in its brutality, there’s a sense of catharsis, as there is in all heavy music. Interestingly, it’s more recent offerings the band chose to finish on. Both ‘satellites* *’ and ‘{The Dreamers Hotel}’ make for an impassioned end to a blistering, career-spanning set; the latter of the two tracks earning the biggest singalong and indeed reaction of the evening, once again cementing just why Shikari as an exciting band as they are, and just why they mean so much to so many.

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