Wu-Tang Clan at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom
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From the start of Friday’s Wu-Tang Clan concert at The Rave, it seemed apparent that the most contentious crew in hip-hop history wasn’t fully engaged in its current “Rebirth Tour.” As DJ Allah Mathematics sent “Bring Da Ruckus” crashing through the speakers, Ghostface Killah spat his venomous opening verse while carrying, of all things, a fruit platter. But hey, as Method Man said later in the show, “We’ve been doing this shit for 17 years, and we’re still together,” so that counts for something, I suppose.
Unfortunately, GZA seemed a bit less optimistic, often standing toward the back with his arms crossed. The MC would only come to the front of the stage to lazily dole out classic couplets from old-school Wu-Tang Clan tunes from 1994’s Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers and 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever, and a few snippets from his legendary 1995 debut, Liquid Swords. Ghostface may have brought appetizers, but at least he appeared to enjoy himself.
In GZA’s defense, it probably damages morale when the Wu hasn’t dropped an album since 2007’s 8 Diagrams (which both Raekwon and Ghostface have voiced their disapproval of) and the crew’s anchor and lead producer RZA can’t tour because he’s in China directing Russell Crowe in The Man With The Iron Fist. It was also tough not to miss the schizophrenic rhyme schematics of deceased member Ol’ Dirty Bastard when the Clan jumped through “Shame On A Nigga” early on in the set. (GZA and Ghostface handled ODB’s verse.) Wu-Tang tried to compensate by employing none other than ODB’s oldest son as an ODB impersonator. Going by (of course) Young Dirty Bastard, he borrowed his dad’s rapping style for a rendition of “Brooklyn Zoo” and held a spot onstage for the remainder of the performance.
Otherwise, the Clan ripped through a set of snippets, rather than full tracks, and cleverly disguised the fact that the massive collective packed its entire set into a disappointingly short 70 minutes. But the Wu-Tang Clan’s mere presence is simultaneously titanic and awe-inspiring, even after a few phoned-in rhymes and a snack tray. You couldn’t deny the redemptive quality in having Raekwon, Ghostface, Method Man, and “10th member” Cappadonna onstage together for a killer rendition of “Ice Cream” from 1995’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. “Watch these rap niggas get all up in your guts / French-vanilla, butter-pecan, chocolate-deluxe / Even caramel sundae is getting’ touched / And scooped in my ice cream truck, Wu tears it up!” Method Man spat to a packed room of waving arms.