DJ Shadow at Leeds 02 Academy – Live Review

Photo credit: NPR

By Jack

Last time Josh Davis came to Leeds he played in a giant rotating egg – so expectations are running high on Sunday night.

Whilst the theatrics of that famous ‘orb’ set up have been dialled back, Shadow does ‘bring down the curtain’ (so to speak) on the world tour supporting latest LP The Mountain Will Fall and follow up EP The Mountain Has Fallen.

Davis in a live setting reaches a level of fluidity and precision reflected in the best moments of his studio work. To say when one song ‘begins’ and the other ‘ends’ is rarely cut and dry; more often, the set is a long-form improvisation.

There is a consistent vein of satire that’s ran through the Shadow discography which he carries with him on stage. There has always been a satirical, often cynical edge to his music, clear for all to see here when the vocal snippet “Now here’s a story about…being free” (from ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’) is played over images of the Pentagon building.

That is without touching the Trump-baiting ‘Nobody Speak’ – which comes closest to a full run-through before intersecting with the gothic keys of ‘Building Steam With a Grain of Salt’.

The visuals are typically sharp and evocative – from the spaceman beginning his journey in the first track – to streaming headlights on a freeway, bald eagles redacted by black bars, the sky at night.

It’s a tastefully curated range of visual accompaniment, set-off by a third screen or mesh curtain that is brought across mid-set. This, similar to the effects on Muse’s Drones tour, allows a semi-3D effect, which is put to great use.

DJ Shadow is a dab hand at the live show by now, perhaps surprising given the lonely quality of his music. As he closes his current tour with a run of UK shows, he reinforces that no one can blend hip-hop experimentalism, great hooks and social conscience quite like him.

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