Vancouver, BC – Having stopped at the Commodore about a year and a half ago – on what was one of the first nights of the “Shadowsphere” tour – DJ Shadow returned once again to give the Vancouver crowd one last look at the crazy eye-popping projections of his golfball-shaped DJ Pod.
Opening the night was three piece band Nerve led by one of the best live drummers to date, JoJo Mayer. To say these guys got the night off on the right foot would be an understatement; injecting equal parts jazz/dub step/hip-hop and idm into their set they got a large portion of the crowd up and dancing. There was some resemblance Animal from the Muppet show as JoJo expertly smashed away on the skins with such exact timing – sometimes it was hard to believe it wasn’t some prerecorded drum loop. With Takuya Nakamura on keys and samples and John Davis on live bass and low end manipulation, “Nerve” brought a unique sound that, while being different, also fit in perfectly with the overall vibe of the evening.
After a brief intermission the man of the evening came to the stage, ever earnest and amicable he had a few words for the crowd and declared himself the “anti celebrity DJ” before entering his large spherical “Shadowspere.” When he was last here, Shadow had just introduced his Shadowsphere concept and much of the projections and visual effects were the same. This time around, though he is promoting his latest effort The Less You Know The Better and a good portion of tracks from the new album such as the stellar “I Gotta Rokk” and the crushing metal riffing of “Border Crossing” were added to the set along with new projections, this kept diehard fans who had seen the last incarnation of the Shadowspere on their toes.
It was great to see some of the new tracks in connection with the Shadowspere, building a great appreciation among the crowd. Even though you can’t see the man at work inside the orb for the first half hour of the set, you have to assume he isn’t just pressing play and resting on his sizeable laurels, instead hitting the crowd with a flurry of cuts and scratches right from the get go. The crowd was treated to a “Greatest Hits” mix of most of his most popular material while incredible visuals played on the “Shadowspere” in perfect sync with the Dubstep and Drum and Bass flavoured selections: at one point the Orb turned into the Death Star while at another it turned into a Basketball that was then shot into a basket. The interplay between sound and visual was so captivating it was hard not to be swept away and forget that it was a DJ performance.
Halfway through the set the orb was turned around to reveal the man busily mixing and scratching, and at this point in the set it was a welcome addition to be able to see the man himself manipulating what the crowd was hearing and to deliver what would be considered visually more of a traditional DJ set. If the energy of the first half of the set dropped without the intense visuals, he was more than able to bring it back up into a frenzy by playing familiar crowd favourites such as “Organ Donor” and “Six Days.”
For an encore Shadow brought the focus back to the Shadowspere for one last visual and auditory feast. It was great to be able to get one last look at the Shadowsphere in a live setting and it was inspiring to see the man in his element, performing live and bringing new and innovative ideas to the arena of live DJ performance. One of the first samples Shadow manipulated was a voice asking “Does anyone remember who I am?” and after an evening like this I’m sure most fans will not soon be forgetting.
Written by Young Dad for HipHopCanada
Photography by Jamie Sands for HipHopCanada
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