With talk leading up to this gig focusing exclusively about the visual aspect of the show, there was little sense of impact when walking into the Palace and seeing a massive white orb on the stage. This is the Shadowsphere? Regardless of this, as soon as it stops being a weird Dr Who prop and begins functioning as a spherical screen, minds are blown. The crowd, mostly comprised of a lot of guys with short hair who don't look like they get out much, lose their minds when Shadow walks out. Dressed in baggy jeans and an orange t-shirt he waves, then ambles into the orb-capsule as seismic rumbles fill the venue and the opening beats of This Time (I’m Gonna Dub It My Way) ring out.
Within a few minutes the crowd explodes all over again with the instantly identifiable introduction to Endtroducing whose songs are pillaged for samples before being deftly dropped then burying amidst a blur of hard beats and fading cheers of recognition.
As great as the music is, and as many songs as the man can taunt us with, it’s the spectacle of the show that impresses, and that stays with you after the show.
Clearly Shadow has raised the bar for DJs and any musician who doesn’t act in a visually interesting way, and, just as unusual are the moments he steps out of the capsule to talk directly to us, thanking us for spending money on his art and for loving music. It’s all pretty unusual for a man rarely photographed not loitering behind towers of vinyl and a cap yanked over his face, and seems particularly powerful given the sonic overload of his show.
There’s no hiding or turning up and pressing play going on here, it’s as much a gig as whatever was happening at the Tote tonight.
The visuals do not always follow the music, often venturing into kaleidoscopic flights with the capsule becoming a multi-purpose sphere against the back-screen. The orb becomes a bowling ball making a strike, the Death Star, it flies down a microscope, through flash-lit forests, drifting over anonymous suburbia, through encyclopedias, by animated statues and courses its way through city streets filled with zombie-faced pedestrians, while Shadow within plays fast and loose with his back catalogue. Most commonly, though, we’re fittingly treated to cut-up shots of equipment, computer chips and geometric patterns, matching the sounds impeccably, every shot and edit in synch with the theme and every-shifting beats.
Shadow’s new take on Six Days, What Does Your Soul Look Like?, Stem, The Number Song, in fact, most tracks get very electro, almost into drill and bass at times with hip-hop samples sliding in and out and live electronic drumming keeping things fresh though still sounding incredibly 90s.
Midway through the show, the capsule spins around to allow Shadow to be seen and banter with us. We learn that he’s been coming to Melbourne for the last 16 years and that it’s 'definitely my favourite city to play’; which, of course, we love. He suggests we pay respect to Mike Durrie, and for those unfamiliar with his music (?) he reminds us that he’s ‘not the sort of DJ who plays weddings’ before dropping his new track, the bangin’ I Gotta Rokk. However, it’s his brief messing with Organ Donor that sends us truly mental.
After some more heartfelt thanks we’re treated to an encore of Blood on the Motorway, You Can Never Go Home Again (in which the orb becomes a snow globe rolling through what seems like Citizen Kane’s Xanadu), and the ever-glorious High Noon in which we’re sent reeling back through galaxies and left to ponder the universe. More than you could ask for from a gig really.