DJ Shadow is a hard musician to define. He has shifted his interests throughout a three album career with the attention span of a child and the enthusiasm of a musical fanatic. Shadow, AKA Josh Davis, is largely known as a hip-hop turntablist, a label that is as misleading as it is inaccurate. For his current sound, as witnessed last night by a packed out Palace Theatre, encompasses a broad range of ‘dance music’ styles, including trip hop, drum n’ bass and house.
For those who have not witnessed DJ Shadow live since he has transformed his show into a full on audio visual feast, what follows is an attempt at an explanation. The Bay Area producer performs inside a specially constructed globe, The Shadowsphere, which he can turn so that the audience can see him or, as is the case the majority of the time, he is obscured behind the sphere’s white front. The visuals that are projected onto the Shadowsphere are arguably as integral to the show as the music is, as some of projectionist Ben Smith’s 3D imagery is completely mind-blowing, not only in a technical sense, but in the way in which the sound and visuals complement and interact with one another.
Shadow has stated in the past that he began to incorporate complex visual projections as a reaction to playing on the international festival circuit, when he would often find himself playing between rock bands who were able to offer a much more direct impact to the crowd than simply a man standing behind a turntable. Call it healthy competition; suffice to say that the current live show manages to elevate the performance far beyond what could normally be expected from a DJ set, as the Shadowsphere transformed into the death star, a basketball that appeared to be actually spinning and Justin Beiber’s exploding head, all completely in time with the DJ’s complex arrangements and genre defying beats.
Shadow explained that almost all of the music he played were his own productions and he relied on his entire back catalogue, making sure to play crowd favourites such as Six Days from 2002’s The Private Press, Enuff from 2006’s The Outsider and the instantly recognisable Organ Donor from 1996’s classic Endtroducing. It was also interesting to note, during one of the points in the set where we could see him, that Shadow incorporated a drum pad with which he triggered percussive sounds, as well as a real cymbal. The cumulative effect was an intricate, constantly shifting journey of beats, samples and synths, so much so that it was hard to believe it was all being generated by one man.
Closing off the set with some newer material, including tracks of his recent EP, I Gotta Rokk, as well some material from the forthcoming LP, The Less You Know, The Better, DJ Shadow proved, if after a twenty-two year career proof is still required, just how interesting and different it is possible to make a live DJ set.
Originally published on FasterLouder on 02/08/2011. View original article.