Live Review: Enter Shikari w/ Hands Like Houses, The White Noise, and Renacer (Atlanta 5/1/2016)

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See, I’ve heard about Enter Shikari live shows; I’ve heard plenty of good things about Enter Shikari live shows. I’ve never been to one though, at least prior to the bands gig at The Masquerade on the 1st May. I don’t know why I’d never seen them. Until January of this year I’d lived exclusively in England, a country the band tour extensively pretty often. I’ve been a fan since the release of Take To The Skies, and I’d list the St. Albans four-piece among my favourite bands without hesitation. I’ve never seen them live though. That seems strange to me, and the notion only grows more troublesome in light of the bands performance at The Masquerade. This was the kind of gig which makes you lament missed opportunities with its quality, with its energy, with the reaction it inspires from an audience. I suppose I’ve been a fool for not seeing Enter Shikari before, and I guess this live review is a subtly disguised apology to the band for having been a fool all of those years.

It’s local band Renacer [5] who open the night, and they thank The Masquerade midway through their set for allowing them to do so. Their twenty-minute set is a good one, and the band undoubtedly win some fans as it progresses, their post-hardcore approach sounding suitably large, even if their output on stage doesn’t quite match it. The band, for the most part, are fairly static, and although their songs are good, and the execution solid, there isn’t necessarily enough tenacity to carry over to the watching audience. A mistake partway through Lost means that they have to start the song again, but it’s the only slip-up in a solid set, during which vocalist Matt Mulkey certainly impresses. I checked out the band afterwards on the strength of their set, and found a very good EP, Dead // Revived through their Soundcloud page – you can listen to that here.

Even though it’s Renacer who open, it’s undoubtedly The White Noise [7] who really get the night started, delivering the energy that the local band lacked. Their set is chaotic and frenetic, aggressive and enthusiastic, sparking a circle pit midway through the massive Red Eye Lids, and rarely letting up after that. The heaviest band on the bill, the band take steps to appear it, and they raise middle fingers from the offset, wanting to see something from their audience, and doing enough to make sure they see it. Frontman Shawn Walker throws himself about stage, hurling water into the crowd and calling for them to move, while his band-mates crash behind him, delivering a brash blend of post-hardcore which hits the mark for the most part. It’s far from a perfect set (and Walker, for all of his expressive output comes across a little strong), but it seems like a perfect one to set the night in motion, creating a sense of momentum which the later bands can build upon. Having just released their debut EP Aren’t You Glad?, the majority of songs were taken from this release, showcasing the strength of that EP in a live setting.  The tracks sound heavier live than they do on that EP, big enough to really kick off the night, Bloom and Red Eye Lids in particular. New song Bitemarks, which didn’t feature on that EP, is a highlight, and I’m excited to hear a studio version in the near future. I’m excited to hear anything else from these guys actually, because their set was solid to say the least.

Hands Like Houses [8] seem to be one of those bands going from strength to strength recently, and the year so far has already proven to be one of the most successful in the bands history. There’s no reason they couldn’t be headlining in a venue such as The Masquerade, and glancing around the crowd you might be fooled into thinking that they were – it seems as if every other person if wearing the bands merchandise. This crowd support translates over to the bands well-received set, which is certainly headline-worthy as the Australian band tear through choice cuts from latest record Dissonants, which dropped in February. Almost all of their set is made up of this record, but there are some older tracks which feature, Wistera and Introduced Species namely. The band play with confidence and conviction; their set feels polished and convincing, rarely putting a foot wrong. Tracks such as the huge New Romantics brim with melody and brood with a heavier intensity, the majority of songs striking that ideal post-hardcore balance which seems heightened in a live environment, vocalist Trenton Woodley’s theatrics matching the at-times cinematic quality of the band’s music. A short speech about equality (“There is no us versus them, only us”) gives the crowd something to rally behind, and it seems fitting with the tone of the evening – one which seems to be about bringing people together through music. It’s what has brought three bands from different corners of the world together (Australia, America and England), and the night feels like a celebration once Hands Like Houses reach their peak during Perspectives. Their set is very easy to enjoy, and the band put on a great, tight, show, one which I wish I could remember better a few days later. I’ll admit that Hands Like Houses have always been one of those bands I’ve listened to but never really listened to; I think that’ll have to change in light of their contribution to the night.

If those in the audience were excited to see Hands Like Houses, then they’re near exultant when it finally comes for Enter Shikari [9] to take to the stage. Cries of ‘And still we will be here, standing like statues’ ring out before the band appear, echoing around a room near silent aside from the single chant. When Enter Shikari do emerge it’s to rapturous applause, which quickly switches back to passionate vocal support as Enter Shikari begins a gratuitous seventeen song set spanning the St. Albans bands discography. Early into it, it’s made very clear, very quickly, that Enter Shikari mean business, frontman Rou Reynolds telling the crowd that “we’re gonna take you on a journey tonight.” It’s a journey which lacks the bands usual visual punch, The Masquerade not allowing for the same immersive experience as recent UK gigs high on production value, and tonight the band only have a set of lights. Not that they need any kind of visual aid for their music; these songs do more than enough without, and from the offset the bands fairly minimalistic
setup feels suitable given the venue. It’s intimate in a way Enter Shikari aren’t always able to be, leaving plenty of room within the room for the band to utilise, and utilise it they do. On numerous occasions Rou, bassist Chris Batten and guitarist Rory Clelow see fit to take to the floor and set up amidst the crowd. For Chris and Rory a swirling mass of bodies quickly begins to circle around them, while for Rou an expectant crowd quickly gathers to watch him deliver the rousing final few minutes of Radiate.

IMAG1772Radiate closes out the first half of the bands set, and from here things only get wilder, and more chaotic. Not to say that the first eight songs weren’t of that variety, they certainly were. The introductory opener quickly evolves into the eclectic Solidarity, setting the tone for the evening, and setting the lighting shimmering. When old-school fan favourite Sorry You’re Not A Winner follows thereafter it’s welcomed like an old friend in quick, trademark hand-claps leading the way into frantic barks; it’s the ultimate crowd-pleaser. The Take To The Skies highlight is everything it should be, and the band extend upon it, stretching it out for maximum enjoyment. A few tracks later The Last Garrison morphs perfectly into No Sleep Tonight, which then leads into a rapturous rendition of Destabilise. And so ends the first half of the Shikari setlist. It seems worth mentioning that the band seem to want their sit separated into two halves, and it’s a testament to the thought which goes into the construction of an evening. A Shikari set list is meticulously planned out and seen through, well paced and progressive. With ten years and four LPs behind them, there’s plenty of choice, and it seems that they’ve picked exactly the right songs, in exactly the right order. If they’re aren’t able to bring their lavish production with them, they make up for it with a setlist which ticks all the right boxes. Factor into that the option to splice songs taken from The Mindsweep with their Hospitalised remixes, and you end up with a set that shifts numerous times, but always shifts for the better. By the end of the gig Sorry You’re Not A Winner feels suitably tame, and a long way back.

And then there’s the second half of their set, which begins with a triple header of The Paddington Frisk into Slipshod into The Jester, a triple threat which is lavishly bonkers in quick succession. “I wanna see you sweat” Reynolds tells the audience, perspiring himself. For the most part he appears as a ringleader for the masses, holding the audience in the palm of his hand and squeezing with the songs he delivers. He is manic and encouraging, a delighted devil upon the stage, directing the chaos with an unsettling level of calm.  He seems to take steps to exhaust himself by the sets end, giving it all even if his voice isn’t necessarily up to it. Tonight his vocals are far from their best, but those here sing every word when he doesn’t, and the backing of Batten aids songs such as Mothership, which closes the set out. Prior to that there’s the affecting Constellations, which prompts the raising of a few lighters, before two of the earlier tracks from A Flash Flood Of Colour (Ghandi Mate, Ghandi and Arguing With Thermometers) see them dIMAG1779ropped so the arms can flail instead. When Mothership does end the set, it does so with an assault, and during Clelow passes a speaker cab out into the audience before surfing aboard it, quickly leaving it to stand astride the hands of supporting audience members. It’s one spectacle which makes up part of a far greater spectacle, and it’s the image I hold clearest from the night – the guitarist triumphant and somehow seeming to defy the odds. The odds tonight, are all in Shikari’s favour, and the crowd loves them for it. Mothership ends, and the band depart, if only briefly before returning to those same cries which beckoned them onstage ninety minutes earlier. The encore consists of Redshift, climactic in the room, followed by Anaesthetist, bass heavy and throbbing, followed by The Appeal And The Mindsweep II, which is a monumental closer. With it Enter Shikari stomp towards the end of their set, the song crashing towards a close in a huge wall of noise, one final barrage to cap off the evening. Reynolds switches places with drummer Rob Rolfe to let loose on his drumkit, and it paints the perfect picture of organised chaos. It’s a fine way to cap things off, and as far as closing statements go its truly definitive.

‘Organised chaos’ – that’s one way to describe Shikari’s more frenetic songs such as The Appeal & The Mindsweep II, and it’s a good way to describe experiencing them live. Throughout, the band are in total control, but the shifting, schizophrenic nature of their songs often suggests otherwise. In a way that’s what makes them such a captivating act to behold; they perform, but it rarely feels like performing.  It’s something expertly crafted and finely tuned, delivered in a way which suggests things are situated constantly at the edge of total capitulation, even though failure is never even a slight possibility. Enter Shikari are masters of their craft, and they put on a masterful gig; I’d be surprised if any current alternative band is capable of delivering a show like they do. I figured that was the case before seeing them (based on feedback from friends, footage and other reviews), but experiencing a Shikari show firsthand well and truly cemented those assumptions. These guys, simply put, know what they’re doing – and they do it incredibly well. If you should get the chance to see them, then do it.

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