It was a big weekend for me seeing Ghostland Observatory one night, DJ Shadow the next, and completing my girlfriend’s birthday weekend with Roger Waters performing The Wall (one of my top shows ever), so a lot was to be expected. On November 21, DJ Shadow brought his “Shadowsphere” tour to the classic Ogden Theatre in Denver with Pigeon John opening.
The Ogden is a national historic landmark built in 1919, and has hosted everything from Harry Houdini and other vaudeville acts to Rocky Horror Picture Shows in the 80’s, and currently top notch live music bills. Therefore, it has a certain mystique to it that presents the perfect playground for live music.
The opener, Pigeon John made me really happy. This band was a lot of fun. The floor was pretty open for this set, and people were dancing. When I first arrived I was excited to see a happy-go-lucky rapper that reminded me of Greg “Shock G” Jacobs (aka Humpty Hump) from Digital Underground. Next to him, was an alternative trendy girl named Erika Dee working the turntables and a cute Asian singer. What a crew, and what a show! They got the crowd going early with the funny, engaging, and intelligent lyrics. This high energy opener mixed many different kinds of hip hop, but what I enjoyed the most was the desire and the uniqueness of this group out of L.A. There are not many acts like them out there, and I think they should exploit that vibe as far as it can go for them because they are positive fun time.
It was time for the main event, and one could tell by looking at the stage that something extravagant was going to happen. DJ Shadow is widely considered as a prominent figure in the development of experimental and instrumental hip hop. His debut album Endtroducing got him on the map, and also in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “First Completely Sampled Album” in 2001. Shadow is also a producer, and has produced tracks for the Mo’ Wax team featuring the likes of Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Richard Ashcroft (the Verve), and Mike D (Beastie Boys). After releasing several more successful albums with elite rappers such as: Keak Da Sneak, E-40, and Q-Tip (Tribe Called Quest) and a David Letterman performance, Shadow opened his own web store for fans to get his freshest tracks. Last year, Shadow became involved in the video game industry with DJ Hero, which features Shadow as a playable character and several of his tracks. While currently working on his new album, which he calls a “return to form,” during a gig in Antwerp this summer, he stated that it’s not quite ready yet, but he will keep working on it to have it ready for future tours.
The giant orb on the stage made the crowd wonder in anticipation how it was going to be used. As Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) walked on to the stage and waved to the crowd, the “Shadowsphere” began to glow. He then walked inside of the globe like dj booth, the door closed, the lights lit, and the deep bass thumped. As a matter of fact, there were several times throughout the show that I said to myself that was the deepest and most vibrating bass that I have ever heard in my life. The show started with a familiar tone as he mixed up “Building Steam” and “Grain of Salt,” as the shadowsphere glowed in every color and image imaginable. It was a truly amazing sight in technology. The ball had a screen behind it, and on the surface of the ball cycled images of everything from cartoons to sports images. There was even a long picture of the Death Star, which the crowd screamed for when it was displayed.
Eventually, images of Shadow were on the screen and the crowd applauded again as they were happy to see the dj in action. A lot of people seemed to like the show gimmick, but many complained about not being able to watch him work his magic as in years past. The music was a lot different as well. The old school sound/funk seemed to have been replaced with a more drum and bass foundation. “Six Days,” “Organ Donor,” and some of “Endtroducing” mixed with some new songs got the crowd dancing quite a bit, but for the most part it was an unusual Shadow show. It also was not as long as I anticipated, but at the end of the show, Shadow came out from the ball and thanked the crowd for supporting live art and spending money to enjoy it. The dates of the rest of the tour were displayed on the orb, and off the stage he went to the next city.