DJ Shadow Thrilled the Showbox with Lights and Music

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DJ Shadow saying hello- image by Tom Mohrman

Wednesday April 25th DJ Shadow had the Showbox at the Market dancing with his Shadowsphere.* It’s an act that he’s been touring with for the past two years, and this Showbox performance was one of the final four for the sphere.

Opening up for Shadow was the band Nerve, who create live Dubstep with a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer. I was a drummer once, and I still get drawn to watching them at shows. Nerve’s drummer was pretty doggone fantastic. He reminded me of watching Dave Weckl if Dave Weckl had grown up listening to the million variations of the Amen break.  The band as a whole are undeniably talented, but very self indulgent. They announced that their last song had the word ‘jam’ in the title and my heart sank. It really doesn’t seem like they are playing for the audience as much as themselves. We need to feel needed, not just like an accessory to your performance. Maybe it’s just me. I’ve also had enough Dubstep to last a lifetime. That probably counts for something.

DJ Shadow was up next. He came on stage and spoke to the audience briefly. He said that he’d been a DJ since 1986, professionally since 1990, and that he loves what he does. It shows. After a brief intro he went into the sphere like Dave into the pod in 2001, and madness ensued.

Musicians who make instrumental music, take heed. When there’s not much to look at while you’re on stage, take a page out of the Shadowbook: visuals. There’s got to be visuals.

Some rights reserved by flickr user Globalism Pictures

The Shadowsphere is like if the Death Star was made out of vintage samplers and it’s spinning in a void of lightning. The changes were hooked into the drum beats. In his intro Shadow mentioned how quickly the technology changes, that there have been significant overhauls all along the way. I could see it. At his show in 2011 the visuals were also amazing, but different. It’s nice to see that he keeps it fresh. Same with the music.

The music he was spinning was everything from his catalog. It was remixed and interwoven like it’s done only by someone with Shadow’s skills. Tastes from Endtroducing, skeletons of songs from the Private Press, all with new hooks and melodies. It was the great show we all knew to expect. One unsettling thing was witnessing Shadow playing some Dubstep. Say it ain’t so Shadow. It just made him like the old guy at the high school party. Enough of that, forever.

If there is any justice in the universe DJ Shadow will continue to make albums and tour with crazy light show spectacles for decades to come. He’s one for the generations. Buy his music, and go to his shows. Just don’t encourage the Dubstep.

* SHADOWSPHERE: a ball that’s made out of projection screen material surrounding Shadow’s DJ setup. There’s also a large projection screen behind the stage. All told there are four mammoth projectors, and with them the visual designer creates effects on the fly to go along with Shadow’s performance.

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