November 1, 2010
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Roy Turner
Photos by Roy Turner
As a DJ myself that's been around the block a few times, I know the difference between a DJ you dance to, and the performance DJ that you actually watch. These are usually turntablist that do a lot of tricks like Mixmaster Mike or Rob Swift. DJ Shadow is definitely falls into the latter category, but instead of doing a bunch of skillful tricks, he creates a visual as well as a sonic experience, that you will also move to.
Courtesy of longtime VJ collaborator, Ben Stokes, what DJ Shadow as come up with for his first tour in five years, and his time in Dallas in over 10 years, was something dubbed The Shadowsphere. Sounds kinda douchy...sure...but fitting, and the freaking thing was not to be believed. Among the many things I take great pride in with Shadow is that probably above all others, is the standard he holds to everything he does, so you know his involvement is gold.
The Shadowsphere is an inventive apparatus with outstanding and thought-provoking visual accompaniment that he actually DJ's from inside of with one side open to address the crowd. It has two projectors set up pointed at it to blanket it with images, synced up and made to give it impressive effects that went along with the music for full audiovisual experience. For example, when in-the-mix Shadow played Blood on the Motorway, the sphere transformed into a basketball, a baseball, a soccer ball, with the backdrop the hardwood, the field and the pitch. The whole thing convincingly looked as if the sphere was non-stationary, moving through places and traversing distances.
Coupled with the classic hip-hop aesthetic unique to DJ Shadow, he worked through many snippets of his recognizable tracks, entering the crux of his set with a non-vocal version of the anticipatory and ominous, Building Steam with a Grain of Salt. The Sphere simultaneously underwent fast and mind-boggling changes, pointing to social issues, abstract patterns, and current events all while being rhythmically synchronized to Shadow's fast cuts and screws, in a truly remarkable 1-to-1 matching of image and sound.
Going back and forth as to confirm to people that he was in fact inside the Shadowsphere, for the encore, he fabricated a medley of tracks which, as far as I could tell, were composed of chunks of High Noon, Transmission, and the dopest of the dope, Dead Prez's Hip-Hop.
Finally, Shadow concluded his show with a mix of tons of tracks, to a mesmerized crowd. The Sphere proved to be a less-boring and more engaging visual component to his performance work. It adds a layer of dimensionality that gives the music a fuller and more-complete representation, making it more of an event, and redefining the geometry of DJ performance.