Enter Shikari Take Us Inside Live At Alexandra Palace 2
What’s better than playing Alexandra Palace? Playing it twice! Which is what Enter Shikari did in November 2017.
The first time the St Albans quartet headlined the iconic venue in February 2016, they released a live album called Live At Alexandra Palace. It was meant to be a DVD, but ended up being audio only, after they had some, er, technical difficulties on the video front. But, luckily they got a do-over when they returned with latest album The Spark, and now they’re bringing out Live At Alexandra Palace 2 on February 15 via Ambush Reality.
We got frontman Rou Reynolds to tell us what he remembers from the night…
“There’s just something about those opening chords that immediately suck me into a state of reverie. It’s an incredibly-instant emotional effect, and it’s like someone rebooting me (laughs). My mind goes blank, and it’s like, ‘Okay, you’re in the zone and so absorbed in the music’, and it’s the perfect way to start the set. It puts me in a very open, passionate mood.”
“I think I managed to hold it together for Ally Pally, but there were a couple of points on the tour where I just laugh when I’m singing that opening line, because it’s the first point where you hear the crowd singing back. It’s so powerful and so loud, and you know when you feel so good that you laugh? It’s not funny, it’s more of a laugh of jubilation, like, ‘Yes! Everyone’s into this!’ If we’ve had problems during soundcheck, or if you’re going through personal things, like stress or anxiety, or not feeling good, as soon as the crowd starts singing that line with me, everything else just disappears.”
“This one is quite a step up in tempo and aggro from The Sights. As soon as the synth comes in, there’s this small space for suspense, and it’s the first riff of the set, so the whole room kinda explodes. It’s quite a moment. We take the whole vibe into account when putting together the set list – we’re thinking about the atmosphere in the room, and try to build a set that has all of those bases covered. We’ve almost always started albums, and therefore sets, with a spoken word thing. So to have The Spark, which is a moment of concentrating on beauty rather than aggression, it’s a completely different start to the show. Then by the time we get to Solidarity I already feel comfortable onstage, and it’s like, ‘Now we’re ready to take it to level 10.’”
Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour
“One thing we consciously tried to do was, within the first 10 minutes, try to play something from almost every era of the band. This is one of the first songs we ever wrote, so it goes all the way back. It’s very intense, and at this point I’m concentrating on not going too hard with my voice. And also, the most important thing is making sure that I don’t mess my hair up (laughs)! So there’s a lot of things on one’s mind at this point in the show.”
Take My Country Back
“I think this was the first point in the set where I went into the crowd. As an anxious person it can be built up quite a lot in your head, like making first contact with human beings (laughs). And obviously an expanse of human beings like that, it’s almost like a hurdle you have to cross, then as soon as it’s done you’re like, ‘Okay cool, I’ve done that.’ Sometimes I’m not really comfortable, confident or assertive enough to be going in the crowd, so once you get that first trip down from the big stage it calms the nerves. And then you’re hearing the crowd louder, especially with Take My Country Back which starts off with those gang vocals, so it’s a big moment.”
The Last Garrison
“The Garrison chorus is the first point where I can really dance. Chris [Batten, bass] has some of the main vocal so I can fucking get down (laughs). It took me a while to be confident enough to [channel] the music I grew up on [onstage]. Northern soul and Motown were my childhood, because my dad used to DJ. My biggest influence as a frontman in terms of performing is a Motown duo called Sam & Dave. I can remember watching footage of them and being mesmerised. As a 10-year-old I was dancing in my front room to James Brown before I’d discovered what hardcore punk was. It took me a while to confidently say, ‘I’m not appropriating this, it’s in my DNA — this is the music that’s been around since I came out of the womb.’”
“Radiate’s the first time where I’m playing guitar onstage. Before Rory [Clewlow] joined I was the guitarist and I’ve always missed it, so I cherish the moments I get to play (laughs). The video footage for Radiate features Fred Astaire, so there’s a lot of tap, and retro footage mashed up. It’s always nice when I’m playing guitar to turn around and there’s a dancing horse from the 1940s –not a real horse, but people dressed up as one doing the can-can. That’s fun to watch.”
“This has been my favourite track to play live. It opens doors in a place [inside me] that other songs haven’t been able to. By the time Rory’s busting out the guitar solo I’m in a euphoric state. I didn’t do it at Ally Pally, but since December I’ve just been singing, ‘And I said park…’ and then I stop and the crowd takes over, and it’s one of those moments where I’m laughing because I’m so happy. If a song is gonna slap me out of mulling over a mistake I just made, or if there’s something else on my mind, it’ll be Undercover Agents. That song feels very special to me.”
Arguing With Thermometers
“This one had an intro that was all about the production — we called it the ‘Ice Fire’ intro. It visually introduces the themes of climate change, so we put together a little art piece of different noises, like ice melting, and the sounds of oil rigs, and of forest fires. It’s a more sombre point in the set; at that point it’s not really about the band. And obviously with the quadrophonic sound system we used, there was ice coming from behind people, and fire coming from the right side, so it must have been quite a disorientating experience.”
“Rabble Rouser is probably one of the most ridiculous songs in the set. The visuals are inspired by the black and white film version of [George] Orwell’s 1984 book, where you see that really terrifying close-up face on the screen, so I did that with my mug nice and big on the screen. The whole thing’s red and has this incredibly menacing feel. The first time we tried it in rehearsal it was one of those points where we were like, ‘Yes! This is gonna look sick.’
“It definitely took me a few days to get used to it. At the rehearsal you’re just thinking of it as this artistic thing, but when you bring it into a venue, and you realise that thousands of people are gonna be seeing your face stupidly big on the screen, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, this is weird. What is my job? For fuck sake (laughs)!’ It’s pretty ridiculous.”
“Towards the end of the song I had to wipe away a tear. It doesn’t make it easy when you’re trying to play the piano, and it’s quite dark and dimly-lit, and then your eyes start filling up and everything goes blurry. I was like, ‘Is that D sharp there? Oh fuck, yes it is, thankfully!’ I played it alright. It wasn’t the best rendition of tour, but fuck it, who cares? It’s about giving a real representation of the recorded song live.
“It was a hairy moment beforehand when me and Rob [Rolfe, drums] are basically sprinting round the side of Ally Pally, through the ice rink, into the back of the hall, and then onto Stage B, which is the front of house section where the piano is, and where Rob’s other drum kit is. The most difficult thing is having to do that sprint and then sit down at a piano and sing very delicate high falsettos. When you’re out of breath falsetto is really difficult (laughs)! So perhaps we could have planned that better.
“It’s great playing Airfield out in the crowd — it takes away all the grandness. We only have a few lights on us, there’s people literally two metres away from me, and it feels very intimate and just like the right atmosphere for the song. I remember how the emotion just built and by the end I was starting to blubber (laughs).”
“We did a piano version of Adieu – it was almost jazzy in places. For me, it gives it more emotional weight being on the piano with slightly different chords, but it definitely changes the vibe slightly, and it’s a lovely one to hear everyone singing along to. This version I actually went on to play at one of my best friend’s weddings, a few weeks after, so I had that in mind when I was making it. I’m glad we did that version, because bands, and definitely us, can get a bit complacent [with just playing the songs as you hear them on record]. So it’s good that we keep changing things up and offering new perspectives on songs.”
“Me and Rob were back onstage for this, so it was another sprint. There was a night in Nottingham, the first proper arena of the tour, where I tried to crowdsurf back from Stage B to Stage A, which is like 60 metres or something (laughs). It worked, apart from I lost my wireless in-ear pack that clips on my belt. I told everyone I’d lost it and someone held it up and it got passed from the middle of the audience. That just amazed me! Not only did it not get broken, but the fact people handed it back was quite a touching moment, like, ‘Yeah, I love you guys!’
“I also dropped my glass of gin running to the B Stage at Ally Pally. I felt awful because I don’t even know if it got cleared up. I just knocked into someone and it slipped out of my hand. I’d had that gin glass for the whole tour, up onstage where it could have been kicked, so I couldn’t believe it. And I wanted to have a bracing few swigs of gin before going into Airfield as well (laughs), so that sucked.
“One of the examples of a Motown / soul move I always bust out is at the start of Anaesthetist. It’s a nice moment to lose myself and dance, just during the instrumental section when the beat kicks in. Then the breakdown at the end is probably one of the heaviest points in the set, so that’s when I’m stomping around and I can see the crowd going for it.”
Quickfire Round: Sorry You’re Not A Winner, Sssnakepit, Meltdown and Antwerpen
“The idea for a Quickfire Round came straight from growing up with drum ‘n’ bass, from DJ’ing it ourselves and going to those nights. There’s an intensity there, when a DJ is mixing and it’s just like, ‘Drop, drop, drop!’ that I think matches the intensity of punk and hardcore. We thought: ‘Let’s try and fit four songs into seven/eight minutes…’ So, Sorry You’re Not A Winner starts in [the normal] tempo, but then during the middle section we speed it up to 174 bpm, which is the classic drum ‘n’ bass tempo, and it stays at that tempo from there to the end of the Quickfire. Which is very fast (laughs). It’s just the point in the set where if you haven’t danced you’re probably gonna dance at that point. It’s the one that when we finish, I’m almost falling onto my knees, ‘cause I’m completely out of breath. It’s pretty intense!”
“As if anyone’s got any energy left by that point we just thought, ‘We’ll play our most ridiculous track from our back catalogue (laughs)!’ There’s definitely some nights where I look at the setlist after the Quickfire Round and I’m just like, ‘For fuck sake, this is bordering on… which one is it? Masochism? Sadism? Probably both actually (laughs). We’re killing ourselves and everyone, why are we doing this?’ So on this tour we’re doing now [January 2019] the Quickfire ends the set. There’s no Zzzonked. But we’ve changed the Quickfire Round as well, so it’s possibly even more intense. It just ends the set in the most over the top, crazy, Shikari fashion.”
“By Redshift we’ve gone offstage, had that moment to down a pint of water and pant ‘til our lungs can pant no more, then we’ll come back on and it’s a really beautiful intro. There are lots of really nice, lush synths and it has two minutes extended onto the start of the song. I’ve always loved playing Redshift, it’s just a wonderful moment. And because it has this heavenly vibe, there’s lots of white light and blue light [onstage], so it’s nice for me to just try and take everything in and absorb what the hell is going on, and all the rolling heads out before me. It’s a good one to just make a mental picture in my mind of the night and my view.”
“By this point we’re all just knackered and it’s kinda just ‘give it your all’. Live Outside is such a special song on [The Spark], it’s the first one that I wrote of that era, and it’s the lead single, so if there’s any song that’s gonna give you that final boost of energy, that’s the track that can do it. For the last chorus, the volume of the crowd was just incredible. I can remember I took my in-ear monitors out — I didn’t care about staying in time anymore, I just wanted to hear the crowd singing back. And it was wonderful.”
“This was playing just before we came off, as I was standing at the front of the stage trying to take it all in. Sometimes I’ll just go straight offstage, and I tried to stop myself from doing that, so I came up to the front and just stood there (laughs). I don’t like just basking in people cheering and clapping. I don’t want it to be theatrical in the way a theatre cast come out three times and just bow. But I made myself look out, and just try and fucking absorb what was happening because it was utterly magical. And then I just hobbled offstage and collapsed.”
Words: Jennyfer J. Walker
Enter Shikari release Live At Alexandra Palace 2 and Take To The Skies, Live In Moscow on February 15. The band’s Stop The Clocks tour is ongoing throughout the UK now. Visit their official website for details.
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