The unconventional choice of positioning the artist more like ghost in the shell than man on a pedestal has its limit. Alex Lazarus, the creative director on the project says in conceptualizing the performance Tobin "wanted people to focus more on the actual music and visual representation as opposed to focusing on him." But Lazarus says "he can't just not be seen, so I had to open my big mouth and tell him that we could use this smart glass in his cube, which can be turned on and off to see inside. It's cool and all, but it's extremely expensive and every single time we have to touch it I'm petrified that we're gonna break it."
Seeing the wizard at work alleviates the creeping possibility of a Milli Vanilli situation, but still, like Brad Pitt in Se7en, I want to know what's in the box. (What can I say? I'm no fun — I also want to know how magicians do their tricks and how Pepperidge Farms draws the little faces on Goldfish crackers.) Is Tobin manning extra controls to sync the visuals? Is it all automated? Specific details, however, are generally off limits, as both Lazarus and Tobin invoke "proprietary technology." Which is fair. Considering how many people worked on innovating the project, a trade secret is valuable. (Years after debuting, the similarly impressive LED tech behind Daft Punk's 'pyramid' paid off again when its designers essentially reshaped it into deadmau5's 'cube.')
Tobin says there's absolutely no compromise musically. Even when he does a more traditional DJ set, he has it all worked out ahead of time. "When I go and see a show I don't want to see people wanking off on their equipment," Tobin says. "I love to watch things that have been really well thought out and practiced." Whatever he's doing in that box, he's enjoying it. "I feel like I'm in an Apollo 13 capsule. The whole thing is based on the idea of it being a spaceship and the funny thing is I come into the cube and it literally looks like a cockpit from the inside."
I ask him if this means he doesn't have to pretend for the part. "Well," Tobin says, "if I was pretending I'd probably have a band up there trying to play the record. Kind of a waste of every one's time." His voice is deadpan, but sounds like he's grinning, just a bit. *
Sat/1 (sold out) and Sun/2, 8 p.m., $29.50–$39.50
982 Market, SF (415) 345-0900 www.thewarfieldtheater.com