The last time I saw Wu Tang Clan was possibly the most disappointing concert-going experience of my life. I was in high school when the boys from Staten Island stopped by Cleveland to open for Rage Against The Machine. It was awful. They were over an hour late -- O.D.B. having gotten arrested somewhere between the hotel and the venue, the story goes -- and their show was a profoundly messy clusterfuck, the other eight guys on stage at once rapping over each other, at times not even performing the same song. I was young and impressionable, and it put me off hip-hop shows for quite some time. So, it's fair to say it was with some trepidation that I drove to the Marque tonight.
What I got was a show that wasn't nearly as bad as I feared, but still wasn't what you'd hope the Clan could cobble together given their collective talent.
Despite the fact that their opening acts Ice Water Inc. and Queen Yonasda did about ten tracks between them, and the Clan's bare bones stage setup didn't even require hanging a banner, you'd think things would have gotten moving a little quicker. But, of course, the Clan takes its time, and didn't take the stage until about 11. The crowd didn't care -- they were whipped up in to a frenzy before the opening acts even took the stage, several being removed (bouncers hauled off one girl by lifting her by her hands and feet) by security long before the band they came to see got near the stage. Between sets, chants of "WU!...TANG!" and "WU TANG CLAN AIN'T NOTHIN' TO FUCK WIT" broke out every time the house music faded.
Finally taking stage, the Wu's star-power was dimmed by the missing Method Man, who's on tour with his BFF Redman. Instead we got longtime Wu collaborator Cappadonna, who's more of a poor man's Raekwon (Cappadonna The Sous Chef?) than a replacement for Meth. But even the other legitimate solo star, Ghostface Killah, didn't do much, as Raekwon and RZA carried the show. Ghost barely touched his mic throughout most of the set, to the point that he seemed to be serving more as a hype man than an actual rapper.
In the early part of the set "Bring Da Rukus" was the highlight. About 20 minutes in they did and abbreviated version of "C.R.E.A.M" that sent a mostly male, largely white and Native American crowd crazy. RZA also did a nice job with "You Can't Stop Me Now," one of his solo songs released under his alias Bobby Digital.
The best part of the show, though, was a nice little tribute to the departed Ol' Dirty Bastard. The tribute started off with the lonesome piano part used in Dr. Dre's "The Message" from 2001 before RZA led the group through parts of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," "Brooklyn Zoo" and "Got Your Money." It wasn't an emotional moment, exactly, but, with lighters in the crowd blazing, it was thoughtful.
It made me wish, more than ever, that O.D.B. would've made it to that show in Ohio 10 years ago. But I guess if he went around showing up to concerts, he wouldn't be the O.D.B. we knew and loved.
R.I.P. Dirt McGirt, Dirt Dog, Big Baby Jesus, and Osirus. --Martin Cizmar
Last Night: Wu Tang Clan at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Better Than: Playing solo records from all nine Clan members at once.
Personal Bias: It's hard for me to get behind an Ol' Dirty Bastard-less Wu Tang Clan. He was by far the most endearing member of the group, and the only one other than the missing Method Man to not take himself super seriously.
Random Detail: The dude in front of me had a great move for hitting on a cute girl with shiny hoop earrings next to us: he leaned in close and smelled her hair until she turned around in to his nose, mid nuzzle. It worked much better than I would have expected, as I thought he'd get slapped, but instead she smiled.
Further Listening: My favorite Wu-produced song is either "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" or Ghostface's "Be Easy," which you can download from here.
By the Way: I think "I say 'Ice Water' you say 'Animal'" is one of the worst concert chants I've ever hard.