PHOTOS / REVIEW: DJ Shadow @ Regency Ballroom, SF 10/21/11

Last night I got to catch a return-to-the-hometown show for DJ Shadow and he brought his Shadowsphere tour to the always unimpressive Regency Ballroom here in San Francisco after touring all over the world spreading the gospel of his new album, The Less You Know The Better. While the production level is pretty solid, it didn’t officially blow me away after seeing it up close and personal. And something about the flow and feel of the evening felt off, which hopefully I can explain without really being negative or dissing on the extreme talent that DJ Shadow has. But last night just didn’t floor me…

It’s not that I can’t blame him for trying to do something new and unique on a platform that he’s built for himself on being a totally unique, production-centric turntableist. You can’t have DJ in your title and be taken seriously for making “music” or even “beats” to be honest. But there he was, up there for the sake of trying and working over turntables, some other sequencers, and a set of live drum pads allowing him to actually perform some of the breaks he’s otherwise built and sampled from a studio setting. And I’m really not sure why; he should have been wrecking two decks all effing night. Exactly what we all wanted to see.

All of this gets tucked away for a while, though. He hides in a ball structure that hangs out stage center while projections feed the audience’s heady trip into the downtempo’d chilled out world of DJ beats that we all know and love. But last night had elements of dubstep and heavy breaks and drum and bass sections that really seemed to have zero effect on the audience. Maybe none of us expected it, but it just didn’t seem to sway the seemingly undersold gig.

And then there was that moment where he mentioned that, ya know, he loves all sorts of different music and that he was thankful that all of the people at the show reached in our pockets to support his art. But soon after (or maybe before), he seemed to diss on the new market of DJ’s “trying to be celebrities” and “stage-diving” and stuff. He wasn’t all about that.

I don’t know; it felt like there was a moment in all of it where I felt bummed for DJ Shadow that maybe people are growing up on Ableton and not learning such basic elements of your craft like “beat matching” and whatnot, but it’s always been my experience that the artists that move and shift with the times and welcome the new school of artists along on the journey with them, they ultimately get more out of it. You get what you give artistically and something about some of the words that DJ Shadow used last night pointed clearly to an inferiority complex of sorts; I mean, Skrillex gets the cover of Spin and here’s a legend on the decks getting less acclaim than he’d like for his new album.

I don’t know; it bummed me out.

I want the DJ Shadow of “lore” back where he’s up there spinning; no frills. No e-drums. No sequencers. Two turntables, dude. Fall back to where you started; hit the grimy clubs again. Play the Fillmore or something next time, too.

As always, this is just my opinion and I seriously love the music this dude puts out. Let me know if you were at the show; totally curious to hear how it came off to other folks, too…

  • Anonymous

    you’re right that the much of crowd wasn’t really getting into it, but i sure the hell did. i don’t know… i feel like it’s hard to play a set with such a variety of electronic: drum&bass, dubstep, downtempo, instrumental hip hop, and even a little house. everyone’s bound to find something they like, but they’re also bound to find something they don’t like.

    personally, i love journeying into the mind of DJ Shadow, because you can just feel his love for music and for those delicious sounds he’s discovered throughout the years.

  • live

    It seems like every DJ Shadow show i’ve been in the last few years, it’s the similar situation (except for my first Shadow show for Private Press @ the Warfield, though i heard the Fillmore show was even better). people seem to only be able to dance/groove to the music they’ve already heard and are familiar with. So when DJ Shadow mixes it differently or mashes it with other tunes and beats, people get confused/frustrated/bored. I’m always dancing my ass off, enjoying the new twists and turns with bits of familiar and nostalgic. might be a difference between “active listening” and “passive listening.” it’s too bad cos i thought the hometown crowd would really tear sh!t up but… oh well. though i do think it is true that if Shadow had played teh songs as presented in teh album, more might have danced…

  • DJ Shadow SF

    thats presenting you the most awaiting New Year event ,,, thanks for this ,,

  • Pingback: deadmau5 on “Live” Performance of EDM | Live Music Blog()