DJ Shadow w/ Pigeon John
November 1, 2010
House of Blues, Anaheim
Very few musicians can get away with performing in front of a live audience from behind a screen. DJ Shadow is one of them.
It's been four years since Shadow (real name Joshua Davis) released a full-length, 2006's The Outsider, but to prepare for both a new album and tour in 2011, Davis decided to dust off a few classics and test out some new material with a show at the House of Blues in Anaheim.
Opening the show was LA's own Pigeon John. Backed by DJ Davey Rockit, John is touring in support of Dragon Slayer, a new full-length produced by General Elektriks' Herve Salters. I have to admit I've been just lukewarm on John's work in the past, but seeing him perform live completely changed my opinion of him.
John is a showman to the bone. His energy onstage is both nonstop and contagious, moving from one side of the stage to the other as quickly as he moves in and out of songs. And his new material is equally as inspired, with "The Bomb" and "Davey Rockit" standing out as highlights of the night.
By the end of his set, John was a sweaty mess and he had earned every penny of whatever he was getting. His opener would prove to be an appropriate contrast to what the audience was about to receive from the night's headliner.
When you attend a show that's billed as "Live from the Shadowsphere" you're not really sure what you're going to get. When we first got to the House of Blues and saw a giant ball onstage we were excited by the potential of what Shadow's stage show was going to be. We speculated that the ball would blossom like a flower, or possibly open its "mouth" like Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors." My +1 for the night, Dwellephant, joked that Shadow would ascend from the rafters on a wire and fly over the audience a la Garth Brooks. Our expectations were both high and pretty ridiculous, to say the least.
The lights dimmed. Shadow came out. We cheered. He thanked us for coming out. We cheered again. And then he crawled into the back of the ball and disappeared. For awhile. A long while, in fact.
I had a photo pass which allowed me access to the front of the stage for the first three songs. The only problem is that Shadow spent way more than the first three songs standing inside of a giant ball. So, as you'll see in the slideshow, I have a shitload of images of a giant orb.
Dwellephant and I joked that it would be awesome if he spent the entire show in the ball and never came out. The joke was on us though because, for the most part, that's exactly what he did. But what's amazing about Shadow is that he's so good at his craft that seeing him push buttons and pull levers isn't really what's important. What's important about Shadow isn't his actual performance, but the music that comes from it. Of course, you would think fans would be upset by the fact that he spent most of the night hidden, but Shadow fans are, if anything, trusting of his decisions.
Like the Wizard of Oz performing behind a curtain of mystery, Shadow veered in and out of classics and weaved new material in along the way including "Def Surrounds Us," a track he made available for download earlier in the year.
Finally, Shadow took a pause and spun the ball around allowing fans the opportunity a chance to look inside the Shadowsphere. It didn't last long though; after a few tracks the ball was spun back around, once again hiding the man behind the music.
I'm not sure if this makes sense to anyone who wasn't there to experience for themselves, but Shadow's lack of face time with the audience somehow made the show seem like more of a unique and personal experience. As if we, the fans, were getting a very intimate look into Shadow's world, and that by limiting the amount of time he actually spent facing the audience it made those handful of glimpses all that more special.
"Live from the Shadowsphere" was a test run for Shadow; a chance to revisit some of the old and test drive some of the new, and he seemed genuinely surprised and humbled by the crowd's response. I'd say Anaheim is all but guaranteed a return performance when he hits the road next year in support of his new album.
I can't wait... whether he performs from the center of a ball the entire night or not.
Critic's Bias: I love Endtroducing..... so much that I bought it twice. Seriously.
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The Crowd: A bizarre mix of die-hard Shadow-ites and folks who won tickets on KCRW and clearly had no clue who he was. Some were obviously anticipating Joshua Davis to take the stage; others seemed confused when DJ Shadow wasn't actually Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston. (Total fucking nerd reference. For those of you who got it, high-five!)
Overheard in the Crowd:
DJ Shadow: (in reference to the World Series) "It's a good night. My Giants won."
Crowd: (smattering of applause mixed with a ton of boos)
Way to throw boos at a guy who's about to entertain your ass for the next two hours.
Random notebook dump: Sadly, October is gone and with it Halloween. Still, that didn't keep one kid from wearing his costume: The Count from "Sesame Street." Seeing a purple-faced vampire toss back a 24 oz. can of PBR was pretty fantastic.
Setlist: Well, the thing is, DJ Shadow is sort of a DJ which means me played either bits of a million different songs or one big song. Let's just say he played a ton of music.