Last night I went to the DJ Shadow show at the Showbox. Lateef was the opener, but unfortunately he decided to start way too early (8:45 at a show where doors are 8PM, and show is listed as starting at 9? Things never start on time, let alone early. He was all done at 9:20 when we walked in) and most of the crowd hadn’t even arrived yet either. We got there between acts, and it was only 15 minutes until Shadow came out on stage. He knew how to work the crowd, mixing and mashing his biggest hits and some of the songs off his new album.
There was a great backdrop of video projections, some of which seemed to be scrubbed/mixed live DJ Shadow’s actions (or the VJ was paying close attention). I was really curious how they were pulling it off. The turntables and mixers were set on tables on the stage, on top of an extra 2-3 foot riser. This made for a good view of DJ Shadow from any spot in the house, although we were looking at the undersides of the mixing tables and couldn’t see any of what he was doing. Was this to cover up some of the pre-recorded stuff he was just spinning? There were a few points where the crowd would go wild over some scratching/mixing and Shadow’s hands were nowhere near his equipment. Granted a hiphop DJ can’t perform every last little mix live (and the crowd clearly doesn’t care), but I expected a little more from one of the masters. But it certainly wasn’t a disappointment by any means.
The new album songs seemed to throw the audience for a loop because they’re not the same ‘ol triphop/electronic that we’re used to hearing from DJ Shadow’s older albums. He brought out Chris James (a semi-unknown from the UK?) to perform a couple of the songs from the new album, and they came off a little too Coldplay. I like the songs, but in the middle of all the pounding beats and jumping around, the crowd had to switch to awkward swaying mode. Shortly after, Lateef came out and performed a few other songs with Shadow and pumped up the crowd as much as he possibly could.
The encore brought Shadow back out to perform another new song or two and then some heavy, mashed-up versions of Rabbit in Your Headlights (his work with UNKLE), and Midnight in a Perfect World. I thought these two were probably the highlight of the show.
All in all, it was a great set. I seem to remember a little more mind-boggling, jaw-dropping amazement at the live skills of RJD2 and Amon Tobin, but seeing DJ Shadow and hearing his full range of styles in a packed house was still impressive. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 5 years for a new album and tour.