Expert, professional, and innovator: DJ Shadow exemplified all of these qualities on Sunday evening at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. On tour for his most recent release, The Mountain Will Fall, Shadow proved that despite two decades in the game, he’s still on the cutting edge.
DJ Shadow is best known for turning the hip hop and electronic world on its head in the early 90’s with his first release Endtroducing… Now, he creates music that fits the modern mold yet still harkens back to his early days and love for Golden Era hip hop. To use a tired (yet never more appropriate) term, he is the DJ’s DJ.
Standing alone behind his various electronic accoutrement, Shadow prefaced the performance by acknowledging the twenty-year anniversary of Endtroducing… and proclaiming that what the audience would receive for the evening would be a blend of old and new, with plenty thrown in for Shadow’s “true heads”.
Starting with the über bass-y, thematic intro track “The Mountain Will Fall”, Shadow’s complimentary visuals flashed constellations, distant galaxies, and an astronaut propelled into the void; a clear metaphor for the musical journey we were embarking upon. Touring the system of his various musical talents – be it scratching, mixing, live drumming – the audience was lead through works from Endtroducing…, Liquid Amber and a host of drum’n’bass and rap remixes.
What shines through in a DJ Shadow set is his humility as an artist. At multiple times during the evening he acknowledged the Commodore Ballroom as his second home while in Vancouver, having never performed at any other in his dozen or so performance in this city. He profusely thanked the crowd, even singling out an especially “hype” member of the audience who would receive some free swag from Shadow at the end of the show. The nicest touch may have been having a credit screen scroll through the end of his set, detailing every member of the team responsible for orchestrating the night (which personally I have never witnessed).
Shadow is a consummate professional, with the back catalogue and contemporary chops to prove it. Delivering his most accessible tracks nearing the finale of the show, his encore was comprised of some turntable flair and flashes of Endtroducing… for the ever-hungry fans. Shaking hands with members of the crowd and signing autographs, DJ Shadow left the stage as he entered; to exuberant applause and the heavy drone of “The Mountain Will Fall” playing in the background.