Review by Brady Deeprose
For anyone not familiar with The Northampton Roadmender, it’s steeped in history and used to be a stop-off point on all the top tours before they head off to Europe: a kind of warm-up venue. Nowadays, it’s not quite as popular but when it’s sold out, it’s sold out. This was one of those occasions.
Enter Shikari have been making waves with their genre-bending attack of metal and electronic music for the past 10 years and following the release of their most experimental album yet, A Flash Flood of Colour, they wanted to get back to basics and tour the smaller venues in towns they’ve never really visited before.
‘Shikari brought with them opening band Tu Amore, Peterborough’s answer to ‘Can anyone help me find a middle of the road indie-type band?’ They gave the show their all but their music doesn’t lend itself to a wild live performance as fans have come to expect from their touring companions. What helped less were vocalist Ben Mackereth’s attempts to converse with the crowd, sounding even less than sure of himself than the largely sceptical audience.
Following them, Hacktivist took to the stage of what must have felt like a headline show with the instant crowd adoration they attained. Playing almost their entire back catalogue, Hacktivist schooled the crowd in rap-djent. The dual vocal attack of J Hurley and Ben Marvin left no political stone unturned and, at times, had the venue feeling like a scene from 8 Mile. Highlights were undoubtedly their stellar cover of Jay-Z’s ‘Niggas In Paris’ and new track ‘Elevate’, the latter of which saw Shikari’s main man Rou Reynolds join them to scream the chorus.
After Hacktivist had cleared the stage, we were greeted with a message over the sound system promising ‘A night of relaxing, family oriented, light entertainment commencing in ten minutes.’ Similar messages came up every few minutes with more popular music and faster beats in between meaning that when the last announcement came up, the crowd was at a veritable frenzy of dubstep-induced madness. When Enter Shikari finally hit the stage, the room went up like a barn in a wildfire. Energetic throughout, ‘Shikari abused ‘music’s worthless genre boundaries’ with pride, including a lot of remixed and extended electronic sections to their tracks, most notably the ‘MotherStep 2.0’ intro to fan-favourite ‘Mothership’.
True to some pre-tour promises of a varied set, Rou and his band of outlaws broke out some tracks from pre-Take To The Skies (2007 debut) including ‘The Feast’ and the slightly newer ‘All Eyes On The Saint’, a song the before this tour, they had never performed live. What is fascinating about St Alban’s finest is that not only can they merge surprisingly heavy metal tracks with an electronic/dance element but they can pull it off live in spectacular fashion. During one of the remixed intro’s, Rory Clewlow hung his guitar from the rafters and joined Rou flailing across the stage before grabbing it just in time for a crushing beat down. The ever present, mischievous grin of bassist Chris Batten was a delight to behold as he barrelled around as best he could considering that he was in danger of bashing his chin on his bass at any time.
After intensity of the performance reached its peak with ‘Mothership’, the band all unexpectedly left the stage. A confused crowd were a little lost until Rory took to the stage to announce that they had broken it. Not visible to me, was a hole in the stage where Rou had been doing the majority of his charging and a team of clearly distraught Roadmender staff doing their best to mend it. Did the band sit back and wait for it to be fixed? Did they hell!
Returning to the stage on their tip-toes, Rory and drummer Rob Rolfe swapped instruments and treat the crowd to an impromptu jam of ‘Smoke On The Water’…well, the first riff anyway. After much cheering and a bizarre drummer-induced a capella rendition of ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, the rest of their band mates re-joined them, a little tentatively, to close the show with classics ‘Return To Energiser’ and ‘Zzzonked’.
The night was representative of a few things, primarily pushing the boundaries of accepted ‘metal’. The two main acts aren’t really too bothered what people think of them which has allowed them to create something quite unique. The ‘Shikari ‘Return To Energiser’ tour still has a few dates left and I urge you, if you’re a music fan, to go and check them out.
3. Sssnakepit (Hamilton Remix intro)
4. Sorry, You’re Not A Winner (Remix Outro)
5. Gandhi Mate, Gandhi
6. The Feast
7. The Jester (No intro)
8. The Paddington Frisk
10. Havoc B
11. All Eyes On The Saint
12. Arguing With Thermometers
13. Mothership (Motherstep 2.0 intro)
14. Smoke on the Water
15. Return to Energiser (Remixed bridge)