The Wu-Tang Clan – Festival Hall, Melbourne (06/08/2011)

As anyone who has seen the fantastic behind the scenes documentary ‘Rock the Bells’, or paid attention to the group’s touring history, can attest- the proposition of bringing The Wu-Tang Clan together to perform is a unwieldy one. Despite the fact that they are eight, often nine, of the world’s most famous MCs who could easily carry out their own international headline tours, their strong, idiosyncratic personalities and unpredictability are both what makes them the furthest thing from a sure bet as well as what makes them unique, and possibly the greatest hip hop crew of all time.

Consequently, it was an unsurprising disappointment to hear that Method Man had not turned up for the Clan’s appearance in Sydney two nights earlier, or that, with no explanation offered, he never arrived in Australia. Coupled with this, RZA, the founder and leader of the group, and Cappadonna, part of the group since 1995’s Only Built for Cuban Lynx, were never announced as part of the line-up.

Thus, it was with baited breath that an excited and restless crowd gathered at Melbourne’s Festival Hall on Saturday night. The lines were long and the security was tight, and although a stage time of 9:30 was advertised, bets were being taken as to how long we would actually have to wait and which of the MCs would actually show. It was a relief, after DJ Mathematics took the stage for a short, crowd-hyping intro, whereby we were urged to throw our ‘Ws’ in the air, that Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon, GZA and Masta Killa all bounced onstage and tore straight into a greatest hits set, delivered not only with energy but interest.

The main thing that let the show down was not absent members, as the group were more than capable of handling the absent (and departed in the case of the late ODB) MCs verses in a seamless fashion, or the performance, but the sound. As is a common problem with live hip hop, the massive bass was pushed to the point of distortion, obscuring not only much of the music but often a lot of the vocals to the point where it was, on more than one occasion, not clear which song was playing until after the first verse.

In the absence of RZA and the dominating presence of Method Man, Ghostface assumed control of the set, handling most of the between song chat, and generally rushing around the stage with the energy of somebody half his age. Although the sound of what are essentially six lead vocalists, often rapping simultaneously, did at times have a clamorous effect, it didn’t really matter because the entire venue were also shouting the lyrics back to them. A Wu-Tang Clan show is simply not something you sit back and watch.

Seeing the Clan share a stage, one of the things that stood out the most was how different their distinct personalities are, both in the way they dress, interact with the crowd and rap. Raekwon sneered and nodded his head to the beat, while GZA grinned humbly and Ghostface, massive jeans hanging below his waist and cap lowered over his eyes, served up enough swagger and attitude to fill the stage.

Bring Da Ruckus, Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ ta Fuck Wit, C.R.E.A.M. and Protect Ya Neck, all from the group’s classic debut, 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) received an airing, Reunited, Triumph and Its Yourz from 1997’s Forever as well as a run of songs from the solo albums, including Raekwon’s Ice Cream and GZA’s Liquid Swords, arguably one of RZA’s catchiest beats.

Finally, Ghost announced a special guest and Young Dirty Bastard, son of Old Dirty, ran out onstage as the unmistakable piano bars of ODB’s hit single Shimmy Shimmy Ya began. Just to be able to hear that song performed live justified the young disciple’s presence, as he mimicked his father’s style and even the same haircut ODB had circa 1995’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.

Throwing himself into the crowd, YDB handpicked various women and brought them back onstage to dance, however, the rest of the Clan had already walked off and, strangely, as these women stood there looking increasingly awkward, it became apparent that the show was over. Anticlimactic, but hey, we just witnessed the goddamme Wu-Tang Clan. Weird, unpredictability with moments of brilliance is what they do, so it is very doubtful that anyone walked away disappointed. They came, they saw, they brought the mutherfuckin ruckus.

Originally published on FasterLouder on 08/08/2011. View original article.

Photographs by jbiz. View photo gallery.

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