Hello, Croxton Bandroom! It’s been awhile. Melbourne punters were lucky enough to get the chance to seeing Enter Shikari play a full headline set ahead of their appearance at Good Things Festival. Having not seen the UK band in the flesh before, I hightailed it to Thornbury, as did Depth photographer Ivan Souriyavong – who came all the way from Sydney!
Having Melbourne locals Thornhill opening the show was a happy bonus. Especially after how amazing their show for The Dark Pool tour was at Stay Gold last month. I don’t know whether it was the bigger bandroom or my position in the crowd, but from the start of their set (opening with the stunning “Views From The Sun”), Thornhill sounded fuller, cleaner, and clearer than I expected, and the quintet presented strongly in their positions toward the front of the stage.
Thornhill have such a great dynamic to my ears and this set showcased that. Their setlist (and even individual songs) found a sweet spot of balance between their colourful and floaty atmospheric rainbows of sound and explosive and energetically charged moments of technical metalcore. This was even sometimes at the same time, such as when vocalist Jacob Charlton sang in “In My Skin” sweetly while Ben Maida blasted out intensity from the drumkit, along with the instrumental frontline of guitar and bass; all making for a stunning soundscape when combined.
Playing the entirety of The Dark Pool album aside from “Netherplace”, Thornhill overcame minor technical issues and played these great songs well. The energy of the crowd wasn’t quite there though. I gathered that many people at the barrier area were patiently waiting for Enter Shikari’s turn. Despite that, I loved hearing the full-bodiedness of “Red Summer”, the focused technicality of “Coven”, the punch-packing “Lily & the Moon”, delectable rhythms of “Human”, and the final injection of energy with “Reptile”. “Where We Go When We Die” was a stand-out of the set though; featuring mastery from Maida, and expressive frontmanship from Jacob in the serene (at times) instrumental atmosphere before a triumphant finish.
And then it was time for Enter Shikari! With Sparky the futuristic keyboard poised on stage and ready to go, the band members joined him while “The Spark” played, inspiring a rush of goosebumps. Leading straight into “Stop the Clocks” with electric stage movements including vocalist Rou Reynolds holding the microphone stand upside down, we were into it. A sea of voices loudly adding to the mix made for an instant connective vibe.
“Greetings carbon based lifeforms!” – Rou Reynolds
With big smiles on their faces, we were officially verbally welcomed to the show. It was made clear that this wasn’t time for chatting though, as there was dancing to be done. As a newcomer to the band, the arrival of dubstep-esque grooves with “Destabilise” was a surprise, and booming beats thumped from the speaker I was beside. With energy overflowing on stage, Sparky was pulled around (in place of his own dancing legs, I guess). Bassist Chris Batten was all grins and egging the crowd on. Things were definitely “escalating quickly”, with rowdiness from the crowd and a whole lot of love beaming toward the stage too.
Talking about it being “way too long” since their last visit. Rou confessed he’d had a mere 4 hours sleep. This didn’t seem to affect him in the slightest as the set rolled on. Going from tense to tropical, “Arguing With Thermometers” had the entire room moving. The stuttery beast of a breakdown and bass thickness had me wish I knew the song more intimately, but the mood was an inclusive one; for everyone and anyone to join in.
And join in we did, with crowd voices tag-teaming with Enter Shikari’s vocals and crowd surfers tumbling over the barrier in waves in “Anaesthetist”. The song itself seeming engineered for involvement (especially at its mammoth ending). The fun the band were having on stage was infectious, and it’s hard to stand still when those in front of you are dancing and moving so much.
The heat continued to rise in the Croxton Bandroom, and the infectious melody of “Rabble Rouser” added to the ever-increasing energy. Sparky had had a break for a bit, and returned back to the stage for “Juggernauts”, which saw Rou move from the stage to the barrier and make deliberate eye contact while singing. Each word was enunciated by those who knew it, and I was struck by the beautiful connectivity here.
Having a moment to check in with us all, the guys discussed that it had been over 10 years since they first toured here, and guitarist Rory Clewlow revealed he’d lived in Australia as a child. Continuing with the set was the magical “Undercover Agents”. The song felt like a sweet homecoming of sorts, where each of us in the crowd is the ‘other’ the song is directed to, collectively starting a revolution of truth. It felt like a heart-warming celebration of sorts, with everyone bouncing around and singing the “whoa-ohh”s together.
I liked how Enter Shikari shared the job of the frontman amongst them, each checking in with us and talking between songs. This band fucking OOZES unity; in action and energy as well as in words. Rou even specifically spoke about the rare unity that happens at live music shows, how special it is, and how it should be taken beyond the bandrooms and out into the world “because we fucking need it right now”. Agreed.
Heading into “Torn Apart”, the vibe was different from the tropical partying mood of earlier in the set. Clean and sombre, there was something almost primal about the song and the experience of it. As it ended, Rou sat cross-legged on stage with his eyes closed, while Rory’s guitar sounded like trumpet. It was a really interesting moment of stillness in amongst a set full of energy. The stage went to black after this.
“Airfield” followed, and was dedicated to “everyone who’s had a fuckin’ horrible year”. Just Rou and Sparky at first, the sweet attentive stillness continued. When the room of voices joined in on the “So you’re down on your luck, you’re down” part, and it was soon hit home by instruments, the fire that was sparked was palpable to me. The beautiful and heart-warming moment reinforced this need to never give up. A definite standout moment for me.
Journeying back in time, “Mothership” was dedicated to Take To The Skies-era listeners. There seemed to be many, as every word was joined in, and there was a massive rush of energy with the song. It struck me as funny that this song varied between something of a danceable disco beat to something more punk, and I watched crowdsurfers going over to a disco beat (briefly). With a wall of death, the intensity was clearly lifted again. At this point, it struck me how attention-holding this entire set had been, even for someone not familiar with every song played.
Determined to extract even MORE energy from the crowd, Rou announced the ‘Quickfire round’, playing a medley of songs. I appreciated Rou’s rubbery dance movements during “The Last Garrison” (such a great song) and the wildness of the crowd along with “…Meltdown”. The crowd kept up with the band, despite sweat flying profusely by this point.
It all seemed to go so quickly, that it was a surprise when the band thanked us and left the stage. The eager crowd chanted for their return, and they did. The encore hit us with a one-two combo of “Slipshod” and “Live Outside”. The former came with blasts of bass waves that practically pushed punters sideways. Loving the theatrics on the stage, the song seemed both an great excuse to get angry as well as dance. It was also amusing to have Chris in a polite British accent talk about this “dirty music”.
And “Live Outside” was a good time and a perfect last song of the night, feeling like a full-hearted celebration and having energy hit frenzied levels. Rory took to the crowd with his guitar, playing while laying on his back and being held up by eager hands.
The entire experience and show was brilliant, and “The Embers” as the ‘exit music’ was a perfect bookend to where we began. Thank you, Enter Shikari!