The man is brilliant. Thatís all thatís left in my mind after witnessing DJ Shadow perform live for the first time in over five years. I had planned on just staying for about half an hour and then rushing home for England-Nigeria (yes, I DO have a VCR, but thereís just something better about watching it live, OK?), but that plan changed in a hurry after Shadow relayed this story: ìI always try and play different shit to make each live show different, but someone always says, ëYou didnít play ìMidnight (In A Perfect World).î Why didnít you play ìMidnight?î You should play more of your own stuff.' So thatís what Iím gonna do tonight. Iím gonna play a bunch of my own stuff.î The Fillmore Theatre erupted and I knew I wasnít getting home in time for the match as I had planned, as DJ Shadow a.k.a. Josh Davis was gonna keep me out late on a school night.
He kept discussing how happy he was to be home (Shadow is from nearby Davis, CA) and he kicked off his show by introducing a 12-minute short film by ìhis boy B+,î who had also handled the art on his monstrous debut, Endtroducing, as well as the first two DJ Shadow videos. The film, shown on the middle of three screens on the stage, was entitled Keepintime: Talking Drums, Whispering Vinyl and was a documentary piece highlighting the careers of three influential jazz drummers, Earl Palmer, Paul Humphrey and James Gadson, all used countless times in hip-hop samples. The historical information about their careers, pieced together with short turntablism demonstrations by Cut Chemist, J-Rocc from Beat Junkies and Babu of Dilated Peoples, was vastly entertaining, and the 12-minutes passed far too quickly.
Davis retook the stage and spun a blinding 2-hour set. The initial images were of Hawkeye and Pierce berating Radar who pulled a 7î record from under his coat. At this time, Shadow dropped the opener, ìLetter From Home,î from brand new record, The Private Press, and it was ON. Images shown behind the DJ/producer extraordinaire to entertain the chemically-enhanced ranged from San Francisco landscapes, to cartoon bits to driving footage. Music on the decks was equally varied. Shadow mixed in tracks from his new album (ìSix Days,î ìMongrel Meets His Maker,î and ìMashiní On The Motorwayî) and his stunning debut (ìThe Number Song,î and ìWhat Does Your Soul Look Likeî). He even managed to throw in two numbers from his U.N.K.L.E. side-project, dropping in the vocal tracks to the Richard Ashcroft track, ìLonely Souls,î and the vocals to ìNursery Rhymeî featuring the singing talents of Badly Drawn Boy, the latter turned into an electro breakbeat stormer. Shadow thanked the crowd profusely throughout the night and at this point left the stage for the night. Or so he claimed. He hadnít played ìMidnightî yet, had he? And what was up with that drum kit on stage? The answers were to come soon enough.
After about 5 minutes of crowd-incitement, Davis retook the stage with a drummer friend from his time in the UK. Shadow explained that this man could seriously get his drum on and they had recorded many demos together in the making of Private Press, but none had made the final cut. The drum kingpin started up a phat-ass beat and Shadow cut and pasted all over the top of it. It was amazing. The percussionist pal then left the stage and Shadow exploded into ìYou Canít Go Home Again,î perhaps the strongest track on his newest work. The track he had teased us with all night arrived next, to rapturous applause. However, somehow, ìMidnightî wasnít the last track. There was one final surprise, the floor filler that is ìHigh Noon.î The crowd reacted as would be expected and the floor turned into a seething mass of humanity. I walked from the building into the cool San Francisco night air well aware of the excellence I had just witnessed, but still unaware of the score of my crucial match. And I still donít know, as Iíve been writing this piece, so SHHHHH.