WHERE: The Forum, Naarm/Melbourne VIC
WHEN: Friday November 11th, 2022
REVIEW: Ellie Robinson
PHOTO: Roberto Ricciuti (shot in Edinburgh, Scotland)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a band that wasn’t stung by the pandemic, but Enter Shikari were dealt an especially dull hand: their sixth album, Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible, marked a bold and boisterous return to form, drawing from all five of their previous eras – from the grisly, glitch-infected metalcore of Take To The Skies (2007), to the shimmery dance-pop of The Spark (2017) – and distilling them into the ultimate form of Enter Shikari.
It was their most ambitious effort, intended to be launched with their most ambitious live show; the band slaved away on both for two years until the album was announced… In February of 2020.
COVID-19 came scarily close to spelling the end of Enter Shikari. But never ones to cower in the face of adversity, they soldiered on and made an explosive live return at the Download Pilot festival in June ’21. According to frontman Rou Reynolds, that gig saved the band and cemented their future – one that involved touring internationally as soon as physically possible. And of course, high on the bucket list would be a trek Down Under.
For their first Melbourne show in three years, the band employed a kaleidoscope of strobe lights, melting some 2,000 minds in tandem with a visual translation of their last album’s unhinged energy. But try as they might to blind us with lasers, all eyes were fixed squarely on Reynolds for the bulk of the set; even the more balladesque moments saw him whip around the Forum stage in a frenzy, adrenalised and fiercely keen to spur chaos in the pits.
This never came at the expense of his performance, though: every line he sung and screamed came with virulent conviction, stabbing through a cluttered mix like Reynolds’ life depended on it. He especially shone towards the end of the night, climbing amps and bars and snaking from the front of the pit to the foyer as he roared through ‘Mothership’ and ‘Solidarity’.
Grounding him were guitarist Rory Clewlow and bassist Chris Batten, who steered the show with tight and considered, yet impenitently savage attacks on their respective fretboards. Clewlow’s talents were notably impressive, given his mammoth task of holding down the riffs in a set driven primarily by them, without a lick of assistance. Batten’s belting basswork brought a bewitching boominess to the brouhaha (sorry), elevating the shreddy fare with oodles of sonic molasses.
They gelled ravishingly with the synth-based elements that coloured in the mix, never taking away from the impact its stitched-in tracks were there to dole to us, and conversely never playing second fiddle to their Kempers. And of course drummer Rob Rolfe, manic and mettled as always, kept us duly stunned by his impassioned thrashing.
With their powers combined, Enter Shikari tore through a solid 80 minutes of material. Their setlist left a bit to be desired, though. For starters, only five songs from Nothing Is True made the cut – all but lead single ‘The Dreamer’s Hotel’ being lumped into the first half of the set – and although ‘Modern Living’ and ‘The Pressure’s On’ are both stellar tracks, they felt like odd choices for a live set when the band could have swung instead for the energised fervour of ‘TINA’, triumphant howls of ‘The King’ or walloping danciness of ‘Crossing The Rubicon’.
Grating, too, was the sole cut from The Mindsweep (2015) being ‘Anaesthetist’ – one of the weakest songs on an otherwise brilliant album – stretched out beyond tedium with the tired and trite Reso remix (a cool little switch-up in 2016, but annoyingly overplayed six years later).
All of these gripes on missed opportunities, though, were negated by the strength of what Enter Shikari did perform. Deep-cut delights like ‘Destabilise’ and ‘The Paddington Frisk’ were enormous highlights, the latter especially so with its blistering drums and convulsive, hardcore-channelling riffs. A cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, too, kicked the band’s encore off with a striking moment of poignancy, as Reynolds tapped into a side of his artistry seen rarely in Enter Shikari’s own efforts.
Then there were all the deafening singalongs fostered by the band’s earlier works: the epic ‘Juggernauts’ and the Myspace-era classic ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ (clap-clap-claps and all), as well as the one-two punch of anarchic nostalgia we closed on with ‘Mothership’ and ‘Solidarity’. That “ending”, too, contrasted beautifully with the band’s encore, rounded out by ‘The Dreamer’s Hotel’ and The Spark highlight ‘Live Outside’, which showed that even after six albums and 20-plus years of thrashing up a storm, Enter Shikari are still one of a kind.
The band’s seventh album will be released in the first half of 2023 (keep an eye out for our feature on it in Australian Guitar #153). Hopefully, that means another Australian tour on the cards sooner than later.