This feels like an interesting way to start a tour – a show downgraded from its arena-sized venue to a significantly smaller theatre. The Olympia certainly isn’t a small venue, but it’s not hard to see how most bands would be disheartened but such an occurrence. As for Enter Shikari on the other hand, they’ve been well-known for playing by their own rules – just see the smoother, brighter pivot taken on their latest album The Spark – and there’s very little doubt they’ll be able to make the most of an inopportune situation.
It certainly helps for Astroid Boys (7), who are able to feed off an already buzzed crowd for a short but not unenjoyable opening set. It helps that there’s a pretty weighty crossover between them and tonight’s headliners sonically, and with the glassy grime beats, thunderous slabs of bass and the dual rapping from Benji and Traxx on Foreigners and Cheque, the Cardiff mob arguably double down on the formula for something a bit dirtier and more hard-hitting. It can feel a little one-dimensional at points, particularly in some guitar work that doesn’t really need to be there, but there’s a core to what Astroid Boys do that fully justifies the borderline fanatical reaction they’re awarded from some.
Besides, it’s easier to predict how Astroid Boys will go down initially than Lower Than Atlantis (8). It’s no secret that the Watford quartet have undergone a substantial musical shift in their relatively short career with a set that reflects this, completely omitting the roughneck hardcore or gritty, confessional alt-rock of either of their past incarnations for their more current pop-rock. The thing is, though, they’re still exceptionally good at it; the likes of Dumb and Words Don’t Come So Easily remain intelligently written without losing the rafter-bothering that are completely necessary, and there’s a clarity in Mike Duce’s vocals that hasn’t been heard to this extent in some time. It’s not even as if Lower Than Atlantis has openly traded in their rock credentials like so many other bands either, given the massive, battering riffs of Had Enough and Here We Go that prove that this is a band that can easily thrive with a foot in both camps. It’s pretty difficult to fault where Lower Than Atlantis are going at the minute, and especially how well they’re taking to it.
But speaking of difficult to fault, there’s Enter Shikari (9), frequently held up as a paragon of British rock music both in terms of a boundary-pushing sound and a spectacular live presence, and on the maiden voyage of a brand new setup, both of those are delivered in earnest. Obviously the change of venue means that some of the more extravagant bells and whistles are lost – if their much-hyped quadraphonic sound is implemented here, it doesn’t have the same tremendous impact as expected – but it’s a testament that the band can get through it, particularly a hearty, homegrown period of stalling when the entire backline goes down that largely consists of drummer Rob Rolfe giving a running commentary of his packet of Skittles.
Even then though, it shows a band who haven’t been swallowed up by the rockstar machine, despite having the resources to pump into making these shows as technically dazzling as possible. There’s something very evocative about the flickering images that are cycled through on the back screen, and with a specifically designed light show and loose narrative that runs through the set, it feels like Enter Shikari are drawing on both the rock and dance elements of their sound in more ways than just sonically.
When it does ultimately come back to the music though, these separate elements are spliced into a set that has a near-perfect flow in terms of how it’s crafted. It’s one thing to bring up the impeccable transition of Arguing With Thermometers into Rabble Rouser where not a single beat is missed, but another completely when factoring in how well everything fits together in terms of ratio of tone. Just take the double hitter of Airfield and a remixed Adieu, both of which see Rou Reynolds taking a place at the keyboard on the venue’s balcony before culminating in a bright, euphoric drop that wouldn’t be out of place in most EDM. Then, almost straight after, things are brought right back down again with the scuzzy, dirge-like Anaesthetist and an utterly bone-crushing mashup of Sorry You’re Not A Winner, Sssnakepit, …Meldown and Antwerpen that proves that Enter Shikari still have the propensity to go as hard and rough around the edges as possible.
Ultimately, what Enter Shikari in 2017 boils down to is a band who have managed to virtually perfect everything they set out for. This is a band with aggression that feels totally necessary, anthemic touches that really pay dividends, a cutting-edge sound, and a knowledge of stage presence and showmanship that’s pretty much unparalleled. It would’ve been interesting to see what Enter Shikari could do with an actual arena-sized playground at their disposal, but that’ll come with the rest of the tour, where they’ll hone an already razor-sharp craft even further.
Words by Luke Nuttall