Josh Davis, known much better as DJ Shadow, has been producing music and putting out albums since the early 90s. His first full-length studio album, Endtroducing….. left an indelible mark not just on trip hop and hip hop as the first-ever completely sampled album, but on all music of the late 90s. The album leapt genres, was a masterwork of sampling and turntablism and was the soundtrack to millions of come-downs at the end of as many long nights out. It was named to the ‘best-of’ lists for 1996 of Spin, Pitchfork, The Face, Mojo and NME, yet remained a new discovery for the remainder of the decade. Radiohead used it as inspiration for the beat-heavy portions of OK Computer. By the end of the the century, it was being named to all-time greatest lists and had become a template for modern sample-driven music. Jumping ahead 20 years, Josh Davis has not only released 5 more albums but also produced the debut UNKLE album, scored the brilliant documentary, Dark Days and collaborated with a long list of hip-hop royalty. His latest album, The Mountain Will Fall is great gel of cinematics, hip hop, hard minimalist beats, sound samples and experiments, but brought home with guests like Run The Jewels and Ernie Fresh. It was this spirit and the new title track that opened the show when Shadow performed at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on Oct. 8th.
The curtains parted and as Davis frequently does, he came out to discuss what he does and how he does it before starting the show. He made special emphasis to point out that everything that the audience would hear was music that he made himself. He also reminded some newcomers and us olds that Endtroducing….. was celebrating its 20th anniversary. With thanks, he dropped his first beat. The sub-bass was so loud and thick, it made my legs tingle as if frost-bitten. Lit minimally and backed by a trio of video screens displaying beautiful animations, Shadow moved between his samplers and turntables as well as a small electronic drum kit. When he took a turn to use his turntable skills, it was impressive. Running back and forth over his catalog from tracks from the UNKLE album to Private Press, the loudest response from the audience came from the electric piano intro of Midnight in a Perfect World from Endtroducing…..
The set ended with the other big track from Endtroducing…..Building Steam With a Grain of Salt. A four song encore closed the show with a bookended reprise of The Mountain Will Fall.