House of Blues
November 5, 2010
Better than: sitting at home watching In Tune and On Time again.
Anyone who has seen a DJ Shadow show -- of any sort -- knows what to expect at this point: Shadow playing his sampler, drum machine and turntables at the same time, as the music perfectly syncs to the video playing all around him.
And the Dallas stop of his "Live From The Shadowsphere" tour was not exactly an exemption.
But as you stepped in to the main room at House of Blues, some things seemed a little different.
Sitting at the back of the stage was one huge screen and a giant globe that looked a lot like an over-sized Japanese lantern. With a set up so different, it seemed that this show was going to be something completely separate from what we've come to expect from Shadow --and his penchant for musical experimentation.
When the lights finally went down, several messages were displayed on the globe onstage, one reading, "Shadowsphere awaiting host." Finally, the DJ emerged from side stage, gave a quick thumbs up to the crowd and just as suddenly as he appeared, he disappeared behind the large white globe.
The projectors then started up in perfect time with the music.
But, unlike the time he was here playing the Gypsy Tea Room, this set list wasn't just slightly reworked versions of his songs -- they were completely demolished and rearranged. As the ghostly keys of "Building Steam WIth A Grain of Salt" began, the crowd cheered the simple piano notes they recognized. However, once the beat kicked in, it wasn't hard to realize that this show was going to be different.
This reworked version of the song featured a drum and bass beat that was set at warp speed.
And it was this particular style of beat that found itself fused to some of Shadows most well-known songs throughout the night. At times, only small snippets of songs were familiar, whether it was "Six Days" or "Midnight In A Perfect World." It was as if Shadow wanted to bring you in and make you comfortable, then push you away a little bit by challenging you to like his songs in a completely new way.
The imagery seemed to suggest this very thing, too. As Shadow began playing "Midnight In A Perfect World" the video displayed different beautiful flowers growing into other gorgeous flowers. However, once the Roni Size-meets-DJ Shadow beats kicked in, the video quickly moved to a bizarre, scarily lit forest that reminded of Blair Witch Project -- complete with what sounded like samples of Rage Against The Machine's "Vietnow."
There were a few times throughout the show when Shadow would give us a look inside the "Shadowsphere." He would spin the globe around and either acknowledge the crowd and spin it back around, or talk to the crowd in between music suites. One of the times he let us into his own private little world was during the performance of "Organ Donor." It wasn't really anything you haven't seen before if you're a fan of his -- Shadow dutifully playing the organ parts on his sampler -- but it was a nice touch.
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It seemed that his intentions for the night was to challenge fans by completely demolishing the songs they love and glueing them back together with the pieces in completely different places.
And it was a challenge that was gladly accepted by the audience.
Personal Bias: Being a fan of DJ Shadow, I know that he likes to experiment with his songs. Once I realized that drum and bass was going to be the flavor of the night, I gladly accepted it and dug in for a great night of music.
By The Way: Opener Pigeon John wasn't bad, if you like backpack rappers.