Where: Powerstation, Auckland
When: Wednesday, July 27
By James Murray
It’s 1997. On a cold and frosty winter’s evening in a non-descript town nestled in the shadows of London, my seventeen-year-old self and a very close friend sat waiting for a train debating the merits of two record labels.
My friend was all about the sophisticated alternative hip-hop coming out of MoWax, the seminal James Lavelle led label that released DJ Shadow’s first album Entroducing, while I was more into Skint, big-beat baldy Fatboy Slim’s happy-go-lucky dance extravaganza.
If only I’d known my friend was being way cooler than me at the time – I want to kick my seventeen-year-old self in my white-jean-clad leg.
Several years later the same friend took me to see DJ Shadow play in Bristol. The venue reeked of weed and Shadow was immense. One of my top five concerts; Thom Yorke came on stage and sung ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’. For someone who reached adulthood in the ‘90s, that’s quite hard to top.
Last night’s show at Auckland’s Powerstation didn’t have Thom Yorke, but it did see Shadow DJing inside a giant orb. For the beginning of the set video is projected onto the orb, then we see video of Shadow inside the orb projected onto the orb and finally we see Shadow himself after he spins the orb round to reveal it is cut open at the back. It’s all very Russian doll, and the best bits, the peaks, of the show come when you can see the man himself.
The visuals on the orb are pretty clever, particularly when it is turned into a basketball, then a golf ball and finally a football.
The set was pretty short but very tight – unlike other shows I have seen where Shadow has meandered a little. This was high pace stuff pretty much throughout.
Highlights included Justin Bieber and Simon Cowell’s faces exploding during a reworked ‘Six Days’, a breakneck opening mash-up of ‘This Time (I'm Gonna Try It My Way)’ and ‘Building Steam with a Grain of Salt’, classics such as Organ Donor and High Noon – both of which taking on more of a drum and bass beat than usual and the atmospheric set closer ‘Blood On The Motorway’.
New tracks ‘I Gotta Rokk’ and ‘Def Surround Us’ both stand up well, DJ Shadow’s sampler drumming on ‘I Gotta Rokk’ even goes a bit samba at one point, which lends a kind of happier vibe to the song.
People hero-worship DJ Shadow and I have always thought his theories on music are pretty spot on. This Guardian interview sums those thoughts up pretty well.
He is the thinking-man’s DJ, he releases records by hiding them in second-hand record stores, he gives little speeches on stage before he starts playing, he has an utter lack of bombast, he seems like your friend.
This gig was a real cracker, Shadow was on form, at high-tempo and his creative juices are clearly flowing once more.