19 Sep 2021
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Shapeshifter - Gig Review: Shapeshifter @ Christchurch Town Hall - 30/07/2021

02 Aug 2021 // A review by Gareth Heta
Back on the road after a few months of downtime, Shapeshifter return for a national tour in support of their seventh studio album Rituals. Kicking things off in their hometown Otautahi, the Christchurch Town Hall was host to another explosive, uplifting performance by one of NZs most treasured and traveled live acts.

Opening DJ duties were handed to South Island veteran Artemizia, who took centre stage to a rapidly filling venue (including her proud mum and brother bopping along in the front row!). Blending a cutting edge selection of dark, sexy, rolling Drum & Bass, she created an undulating, unceasing wave of playful bass frequencies, before easing into more soulful liquid territories as the anticipation grew.

It wasn’t long before the lights dimmed and the band announced their arrival with the summertime riff of Stars (title track of their previous LP), followed by another Stars cut, Eternal. “Brothers and sisters, kings and queens!” shouted lead man P Digsss to a rapturous crowd reception, the band bathing in homecoming adulation. There is immense power in the Shapeshifter live act: powered by Mathiassen’s thunderous drumming, Trevethick (with flowing hair and McEnroe sweatband), McGruer (looking a little like Elvis Costello sans glasses, perched behind multi-tiered keyboards) and Robinson’s (undulating to the music and pounding bass synth notes in a tie-dyed t-shirt) synth-heavy multi-instrumental brilliance, plus the emotive, uplifting vocals and lyrics of Paora Apera (aka P Digsss), it’s an experience unlike any other.

Fittingly for an album release tour, tracks from Rituals formed the backbone of the evening’s performance. New single and LP opener Found In You is a bouncily optimistic tune with springy synth and guitar plucks. Ritual (Under Your Spell) starts off similarly upbeat before settling into a shuffling, pounding beat with the refrain “I can’t seem to shake this / Can’t seem to break free now”, with accompanying visuals of album artwork playing across a backdrop of tiered video displays, swirling fractal tribal patterns adding to the spectacle. One of the earliest album cuts, Lightspeed has featured in their live performances for a couple of years: building swells of warm synth and strings drop into a heavy beat with mutating sub-bass and stirring guitar arpeggios.

Some of the standout new album songs made for the most memorable moments of the show. The Roxxy is a snarling, rollicking beast of a tune, with swelling distortion giving way to a truly monstrous lead riff, complete with air horns, minor key synth stabs and distorted power chords, a metal-influenced dancefloor pleaser showing off the band’s unique fusion of metal/rock influences with the amen-heavy breakbeat patterns and low-end grunt of Drum & Bass. Futures is another melting pot of prog rock and electronica, with a heavy, soaring chorus and a proggy guitar solo, P Digsss repeating the revelation of “Future’s so bright / it burns my eyes / and weakens the spirits I've been chasing for so long.” Arriving near the end of both album and concert, Ricochet features an 80’s horror-esque blippy riff that devolves into chugging guitar and distorted bass stabs - “I'm about to lose my mind / I'm about to lose my head.”

Past favourites rounded out the runtime, with deep cuts The Touch (The System is a Vampire) and Electric Dream (Soulstice), as well as epics Twin Galaxies, Break Me Down and Monarch. “We used to open with this all the time, wrote it living in Berlin, finished in Amsterdam...this ones called Dutchies,” introduced P Digsss before launching into the euphoric build-up “Hold on, hold it on…” and quickfire lyrical breakdown.

Overall, production was pristine, with crisp highs, clear mids and pounding lows, plentiful lighting and visuals adding to the experience. I’ve yet to see an audience not get wholly involved in a Shapeshifter gig and this was no exception - hands raised, bodies dancing, grins all around - there is no small amount of pride and satisfaction watching these lads do their thing. Make sure to purchase the album (and concert tickets) to keep supporting their incredible gift of music and performance.

Rituals is out now on all major platforms.


Photo Credit: Lucy Hammond @ Hammond Visuals

 

About Shapeshifter

New Zealand's best live act is an extraordinary spectacle you can't miss.

Shapeshifter has been heralded as a musical phenomenon on their ground breaking live shows and unique blend of heavy Soul/Drum n Bass. Their reputation as pioneers of modern music was built by an unique approach to Electronic music which had previously been restricted to computer based studio musicians and has earned them widespread critical and commercial acclaim.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Shapeshifter

Releases

Rituals
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Stars
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
SSXUB
Year: 2014
Type: EP
Delta
Year: 2013
Type: Album
System Remix
Year: 2011
Type: Album
The System Is A Vampire
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Shapeshifter Live
Year: 2007
Type: Album
Soulstice
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Riddim Wise
Year: 2004
Type: Album
Styles
Year: 2003
Type: EP
Been Missing / Relocator
Year: 2003
Type: EP
D.N.A.
Year: 2001
Type: EP
Realtime
Year: 2001
Type: Album

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