“WE JUST played Reading and Leeds but it’s great to be back in a venue like this!” Enter Shikari may be getting used to playing tens (and hundreds) of thousands of fans at a time these days but it’s great to see they’re not beyond cropping up for mouth-watering club shows like this just yet.
Eight hundred-odd punters have rammed themselves into this heaving, long sold-out sweatbox just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and though it’s a Monday night at summer’s end, it’s hard to escape the feeling (and constant chatter) that we’re attending the gig of the year.
(Relatively) local boys Flood Of Red find opening a gig like this to be quite the double-edged sword. The room’s packed long before they’ve ever taken the stage and they get no less of a reception than politeness demands – indeed, members of the headliners can be spotted skulking about the balcony to take a look for themselves – but there’s the inescapable feeling that they’re really killing time before the main event. Still, their sound’s got a pleasing sweep and there are enough of their fans crammed in and singing along to suggest that they’ll soon be able to fill spaces like his by themselves.
It’s a different venue when Shikari take the stage. It might as well be a different planet. Like an overexcited volcano that’s just spunked its load, there’s a tectonic shift from darkness and relative decorum to volume, chaos, colour and light. Opening with the killer one-two of System… …Meltdown it’s instant bedlam. The security look shell-shocked as they’re almost overwhelmed with crowdsurfers by the second song. The ceiling’s visibly dripping with sweat by the third.
Everyone moves. An amorphous circle-pit seems to make its own circuit of the venue. It’s filled with shirtless heavies waving their Your demise and WSS tees above their heads. Around it, the ravers, dubstep grunts, wide-eyed girlfriends and reluctant work-tomorrow-morning crew bounce relentlessly. The bar staff throw shapes. There’s enough action on the balcony to see it rock from below.
The sound’s something else too. While Shikari have grown into the kind of big-stage mainstays to be able to recalibrate themselves not to disperse too much in the open space, there’s no denying that they’re amplified in a room like this. The central rave riff of Mothership, the bone-rattling dubstep bass of Sssnakepit and the in-yer-face rage of Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide explode out of the PA. In their beginning, they sounded like a band happy to mix influence without concern for a definitive sound of their own. The picture’s taken shape now, and the titular Flash Flood Of Colour from their (current) third album is merely further embellishment for some seriously meaty bones.
“Feast, Feast, Feast!” Chant the crowd as Rou leads the boys out for their final encore. They grin at the unusual call for a lesser-known track but as time is short we’re forced to choose between that and the setlisted Zzzonked. It’s a small pity that the latter wins out at such an intimate gig, but there’s no denying the defiantly manic cut from 2009’s Common Dreads delivers a fittingly pressurised finish to what was an incredibly explosive gig.
The floor’s gone elastic as the last shreds of energy get bounced away, the band are grinning – as soaked in sweat as everyone else – and the rapturous closing cheers sound cracked by the enormous sing-along that’s preceded them. Reading &Leeds 2012 may well prove to be definitive chapters for Enter Shikari, but they would’ve been hard pushed to rival the compact chaos of this unforgettable night.