Last night saw St Albans quartet Enter Shikari play Amsterdam’s legendary Melkweg venue for a 6th time (and the 5th time sold out), taking the lads in Hacktivist with them. With fourth album The Mindsweep just around the corner, things are set to get even bigger for the “genreless” foursome.
Milton Keynes quintet Hacktivist took to the stage twenty minutes late, a decision made by the venue due to a large amount of fans having been affected by public transport issues. With the room half full, Hacktivist powered through a 30-minute set consisting of recent singles False Idols and Deceive & Defy, as well as some cuts from their as-yet-unreleased debut album. The band, fronted by co-rappers Ben Marvin and Jermaine ‘J’ Hurley, mix together elements of djent, rap, hard rock and grime to create a powerful wall of sound which comes across quite dark and ambient at times. Their cover of Jay Z & Kanye West’s Niggas in Paris was ultimately the highlight of their short set, with a lot of crowd members eventually growing slightly bored of the similar sounding riffs. Having said that, Hacktivist do have the potential to get somewhere, especially when such a strong message is attached to their music. All it takes is a strong debut album and we’ll be hearing a lot more from Hacktivist in the future.
By the time Enter Shikari took to the stage shortly after 9:20pm, the Melkweg was absolutely packed to capacity. A majority of the crowd, as is usual when Shikari trek to the Dam, were in fact Brits on a weekend away. It may not have been noticeable from the start, but by the end you could just as easily have been in the UK. We were even treated to a crowdsurfer adorning Huddersfield Town gear at one point. As the lights dimmed, Shikari took to the stage with frontman Rou Reynolds dressed rather sharp in a grey blazer. Following a ‘new’ intro dubbed Statues (which resembled the interlude tracks from debut album Take to the Skies), they kicked straight into 2009’s Solidarity as circle pits erupted all over the narrow floor. Solidarity’s well-recognised synth intro ensured mayhem as Reynolds and his band leaped and bounded across stage in a frenetic burst of energy and chaos. As Solidarity’s final moments died down, there was little time to speak as they went straight into what would’ve been a solid rendition of The Paddington Frisk. However, Reynolds stopped the track during the first verse to address the crowd and encourage a massive circle pit. Only once the crowd obeyed did they resume the 76-second long track with maximum energy as guitarist Rory Clewlow and bassist Chris Batten both ran circles around eachother, desperately avoiding the manic Reynolds. “This aint over yet; as far as I can see, we’ve only just begun” howled Reynolds as the first crowdsurfers started getting pushed away from the barrier by security, most falling head first into the pit. Destabilise followed, sparking a huge cheer from the crowd as bassist Batten jumped on top of his amplifier and screamed in delight. Its powerful, beat-driven breakdown and final chorus eventually segued into one-off single Radiate, which saw Reynolds grab hold of a guitar for one song. As its menacing riff led into the verse, guitarist Clewlow leaped off stage and climbed his way up the staircase to eventually play a big part of the song whilst dangling off the balcony. As everyone was so focussed on Clewlow’s antics, not many people seemed to notice that Reynolds had subsequently made his way to the back of the venue to play the remainder of Radiate from the reserve mixing desk. When this kind of stuff happens at an Enter Shikari show it’s generally considered normal as it happens so often, but that doesn’t make it less exciting or hilarious.
Gandhi Mate, Gandhi saw Reynolds make his way back to the stage via the other balcony, making it back on stage just in time for drummer Rob Rolfe to berate him for his behaviour. At least that’s what we’d expect at this point in the song. Instead, the whole band played a brief, 10-second cover of Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight, which sparked a mass sing-a-long just as much as it sparked mass confusion. Normal service resumed instantly as Gandhi Mate, Gandhi’s bass wobble-heavy outro made for the perfect moment to watch people mosh in slow motion. Recent single The Last Garrison proved the first big highlight of the night as its drum and bass breakdown and sped up outro made for a room full of drunk and dancing revellers, before Never Let Go of the Microscope slowed the pace down with its rapped verses and gang vocal outro. Arguing with Thermometers proceeded to mix hardcore metal verses, an indie-math chorus and dubstep breakdowns with seamless simplicity in what is by far one of Shikari’s most eclectic tracks. This made for a moment of silence as Reynolds addressed the crowd and professed his hunger various times, an act which resulted in the band knocking out iTunes bonus track Slipshod, a not-so-discrete dig at bad restaurant service. When this song was put online just before Christmas, it caused a lot of confusion for fans who were trying to find its deeper meaning. To keep a long story short – there isn’t one. Ahead of the show, drummer Rob Rolfe told All Things Loud that the beat-driven Slipshod is nothing more than a song which came off the back of a few drinks. Mothership proceeded to make for the biggest circle pit of the evening, with preceding intro Motherstep 2.0 absolutely destroying 1,500 sets of ears thanks to its powerful, heavy dubstep bassline. “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” growled Reynolds as a massive pit erupted which didn’t seem to have a beginning or an end. Whether the crowd liked it or not, they were somehow involved in the pit. “Jug, Jug, Juggernauts”, a song famous for breaking the crowdsurfing world record at Reading Festival, made for an equally powerful and energetic showing from Reynolds and co., before new single Anaesthetist closed the main set. Its lyrics are rooted in the anti-privatization of healthcare systems, with a bold claim of “you will not profit off our health, step the fuck back!” resulting in a massive, grooving breakdown. The band subsequently left the stage after 12 songs, much to the dismay of the audience.
They re-emerged minutes later, going straight into the beautifully slow-burning ballad Constellations. A twinkling xylophone melody accompanies thoughtful vocals on sustainability and existence, before an emotional rally cry from Reynolds made way for an epic outro which saw hands in the air and 1,500 people singing along at the top of their lungs. It made way for set closer Sssnakepit, which was preceded by a live version of its respective Hamilton remix. This was the very last chance for the crowd to go wild, something they definitely did. As Shikari left the stage it was very clear that it’s about time for the band to step up and play a bigger venue. It’s not without reason that they’ve sold this room out five shows in a row…