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…