We were worried the day before the gig that it may not take place as the Beast from the East was threatening. As it turned out, the night before only brought the Flurry from Surrey. A hardy group of individuals queued outside The Junction well before doors at 7pm on what was still the coldest night of the year so far. There was anticipation in the air as Enter Shikari had last played in Cambridge on the Minesweep Tour a full four years previously. One young lady was so excited that she re-enacted the ‘pea soup’ scene from The Exorcist. I’ve never wanted a queue to move faster as she was behind Paul and myself, so had it not been for some nimble footwork, we would have been in the firing line.
The Junction is one of my favourite venues and is a dark, good old fashioned music venue, which has been awarded Bronze Status for disabled access from Attitude Is Everything. With two support acts on the bill and Enter Shikari’s reputation for having set lists packed to the rafters with bangers, we knew that we were probably going to get a great show.
Half an hour after we got in the first act were on. The powerful Black Peaks roared into action with their opener, Glass Built Castles. The Brighton four-piece are not renowned for energetic movements on stage, but channel all their energy through their music. Will Gardner predominantly stood with one foot on the monitor, crouched over the early birds and letting out guttural roars, before showing what a great voice he has. There was no pretension, just a polished, far too short, five-song set of alt-rock hardcore punk metal, which culminated in The Midnight Sun from their latest album All That Divides.
We did not have long to wait for the second support act: Palaye Royale. The three Canadian brothers, who never seem far from controversy, could not have been more different to the Black Peaks. With white spotlights strafing the ever increasing throng, they began their seven-strong set with Don’t Feel Quite Right. The fashion indie rock band were clearly enjoying themselves. The trio were full of energy, which was not thrown off kilter even when Sebastian Danzig had a malfunction with his Gretsch halfway through the opener. After making a cut throat hand signal, he recovered in time for the guitar intro of the second number, aptly titled You’ll Be Fine. They are a stylish band that play indie glam rock and Sebastian, with his pale face and high cheekbones, reminded me of a young Keith Richards.
It’s hard to tell whether their performance is driven by overblown egos or the sheer joy of their craft and showmanship, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as it works, and they certainly warmed up the crowd. After the usual final sixth song, their energetic frontman Remington Leith asked if we wanted another song before going full-blown rockstar with How Do You Do. Standing on the photo pit barrier with only security preventing him from falling into the sea of bodies in front of him, he got everyone all whipped up ready for the main act before leaving the stage.
The venue was now completely packed and I was enjoying the fill-in music as the sound engineer seemed to be a Stones fan. As songs like Midnight Rambler played in the background, the stage was being re-set for Enter Shikari. It was bathed in blue, with Rou Reynolds’ Radar Screen keyboard in the centre. The circa 1968 twin TV antenna on the top was reflecting the light, waiting to spring into life. The room was being engulfed with smoke ready to diffuse the light show for the next 90 minutes or so. The soundcheck was unusually entertaining with all sorts of sounds being emitted, rather than the usual limited count of “One…two, one, one…..two”.
The blue lights were turned onto the crowd who were chanting “Wooo, wooo, wooo” and started to undulate, creating waves washing over everyone’s heads. The intro to the title track from their latest album, The Spark, started playing and the band that defies pigeon-holing entered stage right. Rou Renyolds was wearing dark trousers and a pristine white hoodie with the hood pulled up, hiding his mane of hair.
So to the opener, The Sights, which, like The Spark, is taken from the latest album. The lights were still strafing the mass in front of him, and they were singing as one along with the band. As the final chords faded into the background, Rou welcomed everyone by saying: “Greetings, carbon-based lifeforms.” Red back lights shone through the smoke, as the heavier Step Up, from their second album, Common Dreads, started.
The ambience had changed and Enter Shikari looked like demonic-based lifeforms playing in the pits of hell. Rou was bounding around the stage like a man possessed. It was clear after the trailing end of this song that there was going to be little respite tonight as Enter Shikari were going to try and cram in as many numbers into the set as they could.
As Rou shouted: “OK, Cambridge. Time to go mad!” confetti cannons fired out blue confetti into the ceiling of the venue. The band plunged right into the dark Labyrinth, and the audience went mental. There was a real connection between the guys on stage and the people on the floor. After the song ended, the musicians were greeted with “Zoop, zoop, zoop” (from Rabble Rouser). When Rou responded with “Good evening, daaaaarlings,” the reply was: “Shi shi Shikari….shi, shi, Shikari.” It turns out that the fans did not really need warming up on this cold night after all – which was fortunate as the Junction was uncharacteristically chilly.
Rou gave us some insight into life with the band as he explained he’d been on vocal rest, which the other members approved of apparently. After this brief interlude, Enter Shikari got everyone jumping with some of their standards. Without a break they launched into Arguing With Thermometers, Rabble Rouser, Halcyon, and Hectic.
To allow us to catch our breath they changed the tempo. A simple white spot shone behind Rou, who had now picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing the simple but beautiful Gap In The Fence. He delivered it with a soulful, mellow vocal. We all joined in with the obligatory “Woooh, woooh, woooh.” I mean, the fans have to play their part don’t they? Rou swapped his acoustic guitar for a trumpet for Shinrin-Yoko. The back screens/prisms started pulsating for this number, perhaps signalling that the next phase of bedlam was about to start. As the tempo started to quicken, Rou self-medicated with a swig of gin.
The hoodie came off, revealing a baggy vest top underneath. The lads meant business now. The venue once again shone with a red hue, and we were treated to The Revolt Of The Atoms. As the song ended, the crowd started chanting “Rory C, Rory C, Rory fucking C”, showing their love for guitarist Liam ‘Rory’ Clewlow, who had so far played his heart out. Rou showed mock envy for the love saying: “You never chant Rou fucking R!” before surprisingly going into SlipShod, which is a slice of mayhem alt-rock, techno mash-up.
Again this section of the set was relentless, giving no time to draw breath. Shortened versions of Gandhi, Mate, Gandhi and Mothership were morphed into each other with no break. The latter concluded with Rou on the bespoke keyboard, and a cover of the Faithless dance hit Insomnia. This cover had a far heavier bassline though that rattled your entire ribcage.
Again without pausing, Enter Shikari got the crowd to a fever pitch with Havoc B, with Rou exclaiming halfway through: “This is the heaviest part of the set.” This section of pure adrenaline ended up with Rory and his guitar crowd surfing and Rou asking: “Can we ‘ave ‘im back now please?”
As before, there was a change of tempo as everyone apart from Rou left the stage. He dedicated the next song to “anyone who has had a difficult start to the year”. Accompanied by just his keyboard, he gave a poignant performance of Airfield and the stripped-back rendition showcased his controlled vocal. The rest of the band joined towards the end to provide the up-tempo climax.
The main part of the set was coming to an end and the tempo was notched up again, with Undercover Agents, No Sleep Tonight, and Stop The Clocks. The confetti cannons once again boomed after Undercover Agents, with white confetti showering down on us.
The fans started chanting “Rory C” again as Rou exclaimed: “Oh shit! Is that the time?” It was an obvious lead-in to their familiar quick-fire round where four songs are performed in around eight minutes. Although the tempo was fast enough for Sorry, You’re Not A Winner, afterwards Rou asked: “Shall we go faster?” The tempo was set at 174 BPM before The Last Garrison, Meltdown, and Anesthetist were shoehorned into the eight-minute sprint before an abrupt end and the “thank you, goodnight” salutation.
Instead of the usual cries of “more” and stamping of feet, the Enter Shikari fans again connected with the band by chanting “And still we will be here standing like statues”, a lyric from the track Enter Shikari off their first album, Take To The Skies. Asking for more after 23 full or part songs might be considered greedy, but we knew the band still had a couple in them to send us home in a state of exhaustion. True to form they thundered through Juggernauts and concluded with Live Outside.
The coldest night of the year did not seem so bad after the blistering heat of Enter Shikari’s performance. They are renowned as one of the best live acts in the UK, and they proved that they could give one hell of a show in the relatively intimate venue that is The Junction. All five albums were represented on the setlist, with Common Dreads and The Spark forming the majority of the performance. The lighting and sound were impeccable and Enter Shikari were funny, engaging, and outstanding performers. There is a real connection between the band and the people that have put them on that stage.
In short, they were real class.
The Stop The Clocks Tour continues in the UK and in Europe. More details are available here, or you can catch them this summer at at Download, Reading, and Leeds Festivals.
Live music review by Tony Creek and photography by Paul Lyme of Enter Shikari live at Cambridge Junction on 30th January 2019.