Confetti falling. Pyrotechnics sparking. Amplifiers blasting. LED screens flashing.
Never before have I seen such pageantry in the display I saw on this Friday night in February. Enter Shikari put on the show of a lifetime, making full use of the mass amounts of space and scenery provided in the First Direct Arena.
They are very much a band I have known for so many years, having been introduced to them at the age of fifteen. Of course, everybody with a floppy fringe and a moody attitude loved them back then – they were the far-left poster boys, renowned for combining post-hardcore with electronica, and trumpeting economic and political change for the greater good.
It helped that they would blend two vastly different genres, allowing goths and chavs alike to rejoice in a super-fandom of epic proportions, as it were!
So, you may imagine my reaction to what was displayed in the 13,500-seat horseshoe-shaped hippodrome, as they took to the stage as part of their ‘A Kiss For the Whole World’ UK tour.
Opened in 2013, the First Direct Arena, located in the heart of Leeds City Centre, came about after years of campaigning to afford Leeds the privilege of hosting spectacular events. Bruce Springsteen was the one to cut the proverbial cord on opening night, and in the past eleven years of its existence, it has been home to a who’s-who of megastar artists. From Elton John, to the Kaiser Chiefs; from Miley Cyrus to The Who; from Neil Diamond to the 1975, Stereophonics, Rod Stewart, Snoop Dogg, James Blunt, Slash, Boyzone, JLS, Prince, Bring ME The Horizon, Nickelback, yada-yada…you get the picture.
Everyone who has left an indelible mark on the music industry as a whole has graced the stage at the First Direct and left their mark. Now, it was time for Enter Shikari to leave theirs.
I’d only ever seen the band once before, as the pandemic was winding down on a cold December night at Alexandra Palace, London. There, before a room of thousands of fanatics on-hand, I could not believe the magnitude of the fandom and support they had attained.
Flash-forward two years, and I was privileged to witness a whole new milestone in their careers.
It is tough to say just how many people attended the Leeds show this past week, but I would safely bet it is in the upper-echelon of several thousand. I was situated on the floor for it, but barring a few sections blocked out overhead in tiered seating, the place looked pretty decently-packed.
NOAHFINNCE had the unenvious task of opening, and produced a performance that sufficiently got the crowd hyped up for what was to follow.
The twenty-four year-old frontman provided the youthful energy the audience may have needed, having clambered in from the cold and wet late-winter.
Ahead of his debut album, Leeds were able to catch a glimpse of what to expect next month, where Noah releases his debut album ‘Growing Up On The Internet’.
It was inspiring to see someone diagnosed with ADHD and autism play such a big stage, and blindingly-bright things are clearly in the YouTuber’s future, as a breakout star on the scene.
Fever 333 brought the noise and kept up the anticipation, as they delivered an electric and abrasive performance that spotlighted exactly the cause that brought them to the dance.
I’d followed vocalist Jason Aalon Butler for the past decade, through another band. It was without a doubt a memorable performance, being able to witness him back on-stage, delivering speeches and riling up crowds in favour of equality and anti-establishment and capitalism.
Touching monologues allowed Jason to get his points across perfectly, in promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism that has been known to plague the industry for years in the past
The main event saw Enter Shikari do what they do best, but with so many spicy and innovative techniques I’ve never come to see before. When I say that a band “blew the roof off”, you can tell I’m being over dramatic – but it was close. When I say that a band “had the crowd on their feet”, it could be perceived as hyperbolic, maybe even an exaggerated account. Not tonight. I’m certain every spectator who paid money to see Shikari on Friday was on their feet at one point or another.
Close to twenty-five years into their tenure as household names in British music history, I wonder if they ever saw themselves to this level, where they would be playing arena shows before thousands upon thousands of people. In such a short time, they have achieved critical acclaim on an even wider basis than I thought.
As such, on the opening night of the tour, they spared no expense. With a wide range of songs taken from each of their albums, it, in essence, painted a masterful portrait of progression which this group of ex-scene kids from St. Albans had taken over the course of three decades.
Their production value was a sight to behold, full of wondrous and artistic visuals depicted on LED screens. They used pyrotechnics to keep the crowd on their toes, and they shot sparkling confetti out of cannons, pointed outward at those in general admission.
It was almost like a musical at some points, while at others it resembled theatre. All in all, with the amount of magic
on display, I would go so far as to say it resembled more of a variety show as a whole.
Frontman Rou Reynolds sang from atop the LED towers enclosing centre stage, he dived into the crowd, and he even travelled up to the tiers high above to stand alongside the seated folks overlooking the ground.
At one point the band even travelled to a makeshift stage situated behind us all on the floor, while our backs were turned. It really gave a new meaning to being a travelling-band.
You could truly get a sense of the gratitude from each of the bands who performed at the First Direct that night, and in leaving the building, rain or shine, you could get the feeling of satisfaction from the crowds departing the venue. It really did feel like a wave of positive emotion from the majority of those who attended.
If the pressure was on for Enter Shikari, Fever 333 and NOAHFINNCE to succeed on their first night of the tour, I would say they not only knocked it out of the park – they knocked it across the City, into the next. I’ve no doubt word-of-mouth will see them take this show on the road, and be deemed unforgettable as a result.
Enter Shikari, Fever 333 and NOAHFINNCE continue the ‘A Kiss For The Whole World’ Tour with shows in Edinburgh, back-to-back dates in Manchester, and Cardiff, before wrapping up with an OVO Arena show at Wembley. After that, it’s off to Europe for Shikari and Fever 333 with Blackout Problems.
Enter Shikari released their seventh album in April 2023, titled ‘A Kiss For The Whole World’, and going straight to number one in the Official UK Album Charts – the first to ever do so. You can stream it now on Apple Music and Spotify.
Fever 333 continue to make moves and force hands of change with each passing performance. The Inglewood outfit prepare for an ambitious future, coming off of line-up changes made in 2023.
NOAHFINNCE continues to take off in a ferocious way, heading off to a 23-show month-long excursion across the United States in the spring.
On top of that, his debut album ‘Growing Up On The Internet’ drops on March 8, via Hopeless Records. He’s received plenty of help along the way, as the 11-track album has been co-written by the likes of Danny Jones and Dougie Poynter from McFly, and was produced by the likes Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ Thomas Mitchener and Arcades of BTS.
All photography by Emma Gibbon.