“There’s something in the air tonight…”
These words, deployed during Enter Shikari’s titanic Mothership, encapsulate a strange, poignant and thrilling evening in Cardiff. The day in question feels like walking on thin ice: COVID cases are rising and further restrictions are inevitably going to be announced. That refrain surmises the ‘last dance’ feeling of the gig, the nervous but cathartic desire of the capacity crowd to make this the last special night for, perhaps, a while.
Much like their music, the St. Albans four-piece’s show is brash, OTT and outrageously good fun, utilising elaborate light setups, confetti cannons and lasers as the four members dance and thrash across the stage. This reviewer has been left giddy, exhausted and grinning ear-to-ear on each of maybe seven times witnessing Enter Shikari live.
Leeds trio Dinosaur Pile-Up make for a solid main support act. A sort of alternative rock fantasy mashup, they combine the punchy songcraft of the genre’s 90s heyday into a fun and lively concoction, the crowd opening up numerous moshpits. Subsequently, the lights are dimmed about 10 minutes before Shikari’s arrival onstage: a tannoy voice periodically announces how many minutes are left until the set begins. By the time the band members enter, to the synth jitters of the joyous The Great Unknown, the swelling crowd are ready to explode. The following track Destabilise allows for just such a detonation. A muscular war cry disguised as a song, Destabilise’s mosh call “we need to fucking erupt!” does exactly that.
The first half of the headliners’ set smartly balances the heavier and lighter shades of Enter Shikari’s oeuvre. Highlights include the sweet Satellites, preceded by frontman Rou Reynolds making a short but impassioned speech about love and tolerance, an audience member unfurling a huge pride flag in response. The riotous Juggernauts is also a delight, countless crowd surfers falling into the arms of security guards lined in front of the stage: at the end of the show, the team give each other high fives.
Two early classics make a welcome appearance in the set’s second half. Sorry, You’re Not A Winner and the aforementioned Mothership are both played in full, unlike the medley or remixed versions that the band have often played. To think that the band wrote these in their late teens is remarkable; that they can still drive crowds into such a frenzy is a testament to Shikari’s songwriting abilities.
Towards the end of the show come two especially poignant tracks. Reynolds’ solo rendition of Constellations is gorgeous and steeped in melancholy, as is the euphoric, bittersweet closer Live Outside. Few, currently, would disagree with the latter’s chorus refrain, “I want to live outside / Live outside of all of this.” This, the final lyric of the night, echoed around my brain for some time afterwards. I’m far from a hardcore fan of the band these days, but I found myself in awe of not only their showmanship but also of their ample heart and soul.
Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Thurs 16 Dec
words TOM MORGAN photos TIM ALBAN