There’s something wondrous about Melbourne’s Forum Theatre, even when its lost in a sea of intoxicated Shapeshifter devotees, stumbling straight from the races that arvo and towards the bar. The night held a similar sloppy atmosphere throughout both opening DJ sets, and though it was all a bit messy, there was an undeniable excitement in the air as DJs JPS and Nam spun just the right tunes to lure the crowd onto the dance floor.
The sounds and lights were so reminiscent of a hot Parisian discotheque that you’d almost forget you’d queued up to see a live gig. It’s so incredibly refreshing when frontman Paora ‘P Digsss’ Apera and the rest of the outfit take stage – behind real instruments! Drum n’ bass as it was meant to be played.
The crowd is filled with diehards, a mostly kiwi camp, and the screams are loud and welcoming. A smooth, solid rendition of Dutchies opens up the set and fills the Forum with that blissful feeling only a group like Shapeshifter can conjure. P Digsss’ vocals are like butter on toast, the perfect topping for Johnny Hooves groovy drum rolls and Nick Robinson’s bass line. The crowd jumps with a fever and cups of beer continue to go everywhere. Shirt, bag, shoes – nothing is safe from the reckless, free-flowing energy that ignites the venue.
The night began a rainy one and an umbrella makes an appearance, puffed out in all its glory to protect a selected few attendees, which seems to cue the guys that its time for a cheerful rendition of Electric Dream to rescue the rest of us. The crowd sings back the catchy vocal line and swells with more people. Soon, Devin Abrams pulls out his saxophone and quiets the room, and suddenly we’re transported to the coolest of Melbourne jazz joints, witnessing true musicianship far, oh-so-far from its peak. This bit alone could’ve stolen the show, but the guys continue to throw everything they can at us, including some hardcore bits that make the metal heads among us seize up with glee.
Shapeshifter have been around for over a solid decade now, and that’s exciting for plenty of reasons, but mostly because they continue to navigate uncharted territory in the music world with such ease. And with nine albums to select from, its hard not to take in the musicianship at work. P Digsss quietly covers Jill Scott’s ’Long Walk’ in between songs as Sam Trevethick plays with atmospheric tones on his keyboard. The show is like floating in and out of a dream; the reality of the sweltering crowd and the floating energy of the music are in stark contrast. It all kind of works beautifully as it most likely had the year’s proceeding this gig, in tours across Europe and the UK, as well as to their native New Zealand, where the magic all began.
P Digsss admits its been too long since Shapeshifter have been back to Melbourne, and the crowd echoes his sentiments. What’s certain, is that the quintet will not only stop touring, they’ll keep coming up with something new and interesting for fans, new and old, to digest insatiably. In their own words, ’Hold on, hold it deep inside… Welcome to the ride!”
– Cayce Hill