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Dj Shadow & MC Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) - 7.6.2007

Author: Rob Barnes
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
I used to think DJ Shadow was perfect. Obviously everybody loved 'Endtroducing', but 'Private Press' really pitched him into the super league for me. I saw him back in 2004 at Brixton Academy and that was the pinnacle of our love affair. He could do no wrong.

Then he did wrong - 'The Outsider'. I won't bother with a full review now, but to me it stunk of someone trying too hard to break his own mould and who wanted to fit in with his kool street-tuff mates and, for the first time, he'd made some truly awful music.

So I was probably a tad cynical when I arrived at the Forum for his recent tour and my mood wasn't helped by the fact that Dexter didn't play (although he was still listed to when we walked in - grrrr) and Daddy G had some sort of woman trouble that meant he'd been replaced by some chap from Blackalicious. Anyway, whatever. Enough misery - what was the damn show like-

Mr Shadow does this weird thing before he plays, where he talks in his lazy Californian lilt about what he's gonna do (play some records and twist some knobs) and even breaks his set a couple of times to do so. It's sort of charming, but it's a bit like a masseur who's trying to have a chat when you're trying to wind down and zone out - a bit disconcerting and kind of weird.

Then he puts the needle on the record, plays some of his fantastic music and for a while it's like being in love again. The first half an hour was unreal. He was mashing his own stuff together while he was overshadowed (geddit-) by the coolest video backdrop ever. There was a nagging feeling that I could have just listened to the album like really loud at home, but he does mess things round enough for it to feel like it is a real performance and the neighbours are already pissed off that I play him loud all the time anyway.

So after 30 or so fantastic minutes, we have his 'Shit Set' - the rap crap off Outsider. Luckily it was all together, so I had a nice leisurely leak and took a look around at the crowd. Everyone was still loving him, even the cringingly bad 'Hurricane Katrina' track, but this was the kind of crowd that looked like they didn't have to go to work the next day and they were still in love with the Shadow. All of a sudden, I felt old and guilty for not loving him so much. 'It's not you, Shadow, it's me…'

Then he stops it all again and bigs up his guest MC, Gift of Gab from Blackalicious. I knew a bit of their stuff, but only really the anthem, Alphabet Aerobics. But it didn't matter. He ripped it up and at last it felt like a human, rather than a machine, was playing with the crowd. For me, he was the best bit of the night, especially the Alphabet anthem which blew up the place.

From there on, it was carte blanche for anthems and Shadow dutifully rolled them out. Organ Donor was naturally the highpoint - he must be so sick of playing it, but he's a good faker and always teases out the intro until everyone's whooping like manic monkeys. Then all of a sudden - and without my fave You Can't Go Home Again - he's all played out and the lights are on.

It was good enough, but not great and all too much like a 'lite' version of the Brixton show I saw a few years ago. He's saying he won't be touring for a few more years, so hopefully he's gonna be coming back with a whole new experience next time.

In the meantime, I'm just gonna get my fix from the 'Live! In Tune And On Time' DVD.

And you should too.
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