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Live Review – Enter Shikari, Wembley Arena, 17/02/24

Shikari’s spectacular arena debut

Following on from performances at the Ally Pally and headlining last year’s Slam Dunk Festival, St. Albans electronicore turned alt rock giants Enter Shikari make their biggest stand on London ground tonight at Wembley’s OVO Arena. While billed as the A Kiss For The Whole World Tour in reference to 2023’s stellar seventh full-length LP, tonight’s spectacle appears equally focused on celebrating the expansive and dynamic back catalogue that has led the members to this point, with the lengthy 90 minute set offering ample time to projects past and present.

Opening with a spoken word a capella of A Flash Flood Of Colour intro ‘System…’ before careering full wub into the frenetic hardcore-dubstep mayhem of ‘…Meltdown’, the choice to begin proceedings with a decade old pair of tracks is highly indicative of the current political and social climate the Shikari clan have been warning their listeners against since their early inception. The unhinged spirit with which frontman Rou Reynolds bellows “Fuck all borders, fuck all boundaries, fuck all flags and fuck nationalities” before the sobering penny drop of “Countries are just lines drawn in the sand with a stick” serves as a severe and bold statement of intent, marrying peak awareness with musical abandon, inspiring the thousands in attendance to be aware while cutting loose, a point Reynolds continues to make throughout the set.

From there, the band pull the crowd down avenues of previous albums with compartmentalised sections catered for cuts from The Mindsweep such as the anthemic ‘Torn Apart’ and the broken glitchcore mayhem of the NHS death breath ‘Anesthetist’, while their scene-defining debut Take To The Skies gets extra attention with the trance-punk fury of the self-titled ‘Enter Shikari’ into the cathartic pleading with alien lifeforms to save us from our own broken planet on ‘Mothership’. It’s also worth mentioning that these cuts originally played to swathes of sweaty fans in dingy hardcore clubs across the city have finally reached a peak due to the band’s increased success and platform, with the intricate stage designs and cataclysmic light show they always deserved to bolster them now on full display.

These set designs include Houdini stage theatrics with Reynolds dropping into a transparent glass case of water to echo the video to their rave-centric ‘Bloodshot’, while a film-noir dreamy cityscape sees the frontman climb atop a projected faux-skyscraper to perform a subdued solo version of the delicate yet anxiety riddled ‘the pressures on’. This slowly morphs into the obligatory phone/lighter moment, before transitioning into an equally stripped down rendition of ‘Juggernauts’ complete with self-described “unnecessary pauses for emotional effect”.

At a time where so much of the world appears to be on the brink of chaotic annihilation, and a band like Enter Shikari have constantly used their art as a vehicle for such prevention, there’s a looming sense of bitter irony for the group to have reached such a commercial and critical height right at the time where so much horror is currently taking place globe wide. As previously mentioned, this isn’t lost on the members for a second, with Reynolds taking time out to make a heartfelt speech about Gaza and their championing of Palestine which they have done through their music as far back as 2008. This sobering moment is bookended by ‘Goldfish’; a euphoric synth-pop cut that uses its disarming melody to curb the frightening lack of control or agency detailed through the lyrical swipe of “When people feel powerless they will rarely resist.”

For each poignant moment of introspection, Reynolds pulls out another frontman eccentricity, even running the length of the arena stalls whilst tearing through ‘The Sights’ before making it back to stage, out of breath, to admit, “They said I couldn’t get around the entire area in one song and they were right.” The rest of the band also took this opportunity to arrange a switcheroo onto a “B Stage” in the middle of the crowd, a theatric they were abundantly proud of, with their tongue in cheek demeanor under-cutting every arena-sized stage antic.

Following a rallying speech in defence of the trans community, with Reynolds plainly stating that the enemy isn’t striking NHS workers or migrants or any class of minority, but “the neo liberal narcissists in power”, the deft balance of rage and unity is elevated to fever pitch by the soaring strength of ‘satellites**’, complete with megastar Sam Ryder providing his incomparable high notes to the massive hook. Reynolds even shares an anecdote of their original meeting with Ryder many moons ago during a US Warped Tour where Ryder cut his teeth as vocalist for metalcore acts such as Blessed By A Broken Heart and Close Your Eyes, before becoming the Eurovision bearded charmer your mother loves. Ryder’s appearance also marks the second guest feature of the night following on from Fever 333 frontman Jason Aalon Butler’s presence during the frenetic stand alone single ‘Losing My Grip’.

Faking out with ‘{ The Dreamer’s Hotel }’ before a computer programmed skewed AI engages the crowd to assess the desire for an encore we all know is coming, the classic scene trance post-hardcore nonsense single that caused all of this hype and dichotomy almost two decades ago, ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ feels bizarrely at home in an arena that would’ve never catered to this style on the year of its initial release. It’s a defining moment for the realms of punk, hardcore, metal and alternative music that an entire generation have grown up on, as the kids are now the arena attendees and their love and anger has only been seasoned with age, not dissipated. This goes for both artist and fan alike, while the closing titular ‘A Kiss For The Whole World x’ sends the thousands in attendance through one last jovial, energetic burst of camaraderie and angst-espousing escapism.

At a time when the world feels cold, ugly and frightening, Enter Shikari remind all not to ignore or turn a blind eye, but to allow moments of escape, gratitude and reflection in a sincere effort to maintain perseverance in order to face the ills all around us. Dance with thought, mosh with care and scream along as if each word is your own.
Zach Buggy

Buy your vinyl copy of A Kiss For The Whole World by Enter Shikari, here