DJ Shadow has made a lasting mark on the music world over his career, influencing countless turntable-ists and inspiring many hip-hop artists along the way. He took to the road in 2010 without an album to promote, but instead with an agenda. Shadow set forth to scintillate audiences with a live performance of material from his classic Endtroducing songs to side productions for friends to teasers from a future album. His course charted, Shadow made his rounds of the States, and a stop at Baltimore’s Ram’s Head Live, with the dynamic Shadowsphere as his stage partner.
The Shadowsphere created a hyper-sensory layer to what might have been an otherwise straightforward performance. The eggish-white sphere added depth as the focal point of projections coordinated with the visual backdrop. Whether it was a rolling bowling ball going for a strike, projections of Shadow from the interior, the Earth encompassed by space or Simon Cowell and Lady Gaga being sliced, the Shadowsphere drew attention to the stage while Shadow remained concealed. It earned the most cheer when, for the briefest of moments, it became the Imperial Death Star. But the most applause was reserved for Shadow himself, deliberately swiveling the sphere to reveal to the audience his masterful scratching and mixing.
Shadow mixed deftly from song to song, crossing through so many songs it was difficult to keep track. The new temptation, “Def Surrounds Us”, made it into the mix along with the classic Hammond funk of “Organ Donor”. Flower imagery went into full gear for “Stem” another older gem. One song that I had never heard, maybe a future release, maybe a distant collaboration, had the vocal line “Lord give me a sign” and became something I’m looking forward to on the new album (presuming). Wrapping up his set, Shadow performed a piano driven number while the sphere reinterpreted the gentle drifting of a snow globe. Though it lacked narrative, other than being Shadow’s work, all in all it was an excellent night. The performance reenergized Shadow’s fans, possibly inspiring the DJ as well, for the excitement of an impending 2011 album.