Enter Shikari have already proven themselves to be one of the country’s best live bands, with many huge UK shows and incendiary festival sets already under their belt. A ‘regular’ Shikari set would be more than enough to close any festival in style, but for their 2017 Slam Dunk appearances, they went one step further by playing their groundbreaking debut Take to the Skies in full.
It’s been 10 years since Take to the Skies was released, and many of the songs have since disappeared from the band’s setlists. Fans new and old were eagerly awaiting the return of old favourites, whether they had grown up listening to these songs or discovered them more recently. As Birmingham’s NEC Arena filled up with people (an impressively large crowd considering how many great bands were also playing on other stages) the anticipation in the air was almost palpable.
After what seemed like an eternity of eerie lighting and ominous intro music, the set kicked off with all four band members at the front of the stage for an atmospheric rendition of the album’s synthy intro, building the tension in the room ever higher. Drummer Rob Rolfe then took his place behind the drumkit and the band exploded into the classic track ‘Enter Shikari’, as the crowd also exploded into a frenzy of moshing and screaming of lyrics. This continued as the band fired through the first few tracks of the album, barely pausing for a breather until the slow-building, moody ‘Today Won’t Go Down in History’, a song which had never been played live until this year. The boys also mixed in a handful of more recent tracks, with songs like ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘The Last Garrison’ reminding us that while Shikari may have evolved a lot over the last 10 years, their ability to create intense and inspirational music hasn’t faded.
The older music remained the focus however, with the crowd welcoming fan-favourites like ‘No Sssweat’ and ‘Return to Energiser’ like old friends. A key part of Enter Shikari shows has always been encouraging their audience to take an interest in politics, and frontman Rou Reynolds didn’t waste this opportunity to passionately implore the Slam Dunk crowd to vote in the upcoming election. Rou also delivered a moving speech about the ability of live music to bring people together indiscriminately, before a heart-wrenching tribute to the people of Manchester in the wake of the recent bombing. This consisted of a cover of the Oasis classic ‘Half the World Away’ segueing into Shikari’s own beautiful ‘Adieu’, which the crowd continued to sing even after the band had left the stage.
There was no doubt the band would return for an encore, partly due to the rapturous applause from the audience and partly because there was still one song left from the album. ‘OK, Time for Plan B’ is easily one of Enter Shikari’s heaviest songs, and a stunning performance of it brought the evening to an epic climax. Things weren’t quite over yet though as the band gave us one last chance to go crazy with the chaotic ‘The Appeal & the Mindsweep II’ closing the set with a bang.
Every time we see Enter Shikari we’re blown away but this time was truly special. Not many bands can go from insane riffs and breakdowns to moving thousands of people to tears in the space of a few minutes. The old songs sounded just as good (if not better) than ever, a testament to this band’s immense talent. With the band’s 5th album just around the corner and a huge UK tour just announced, we couldn’t be more excited to see what Shikari do next.