Wu-Tang Clan – Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne (23/02/2016)

As DJ Mathematics dropped the opening bars of 1993’s Bring Da Ruckus and the packed arena went predictably nuts, RZA strode out, in total command of the stage. Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Masta Killa and GZA each followed, delivering their verses and taking their positions on either side of their producer.

Beginning with Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, in which Masta Killa delivered a fiery a cappella verse, each member of the Clan took turns to shine through both group classics and early solo cuts such as Criminology and Liquid Swords.

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Everybody gave his all to the performance, attacking both their own and each other’s verses with gusto, seemingly meaning it as much as they did 23 years ago. The polished nature of the performance and the complete professionalism evident in the way they played to the crowd was befitting of the large-scale nature of the stadium setting.

RZA in particular, who was without doubt the front man of the group, brought an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm to play; jumping around, spraying the front rows with sparkling wine and directing crowd participation as well as the DJ.

Anyone who caught Ghostface’s set at Meredith in 2014 will remember the sight of tennis paralympian Dylan Alcott crowd surfing in his wheelchair to the stage and the rapping alongside his hero. It was a joy then to see Ghost leave the stage during Reunited and return wheeling on Alcott, who absolutely nailed Method Man’s verse. Ghost then explained that, while U-God and Inspectah Deck had been denied entry into Australia, Alcott had written him a letter of reference that allowed him passage. You never know who’ll you meet on the road, right?

The sound quality was fairly substandard, the booming bass and drums making the melodic elements of the tracks, particularly the soul samples that comprise the hooks of many of the early songs, difficult to hear. For some reason Raekwon and GZA’s microphones were also quieter than the rest of the group’s, something which was not adjusted.

Shame on a Nigga and C.R.E.A.M. were back-to-back set highlights and unlikely Beatles and Nirvana covers went down well.

Then something strange happened. After bidding the audience farewell with an animated performance of Gravel Pit, everyone left the stage, except for Masta Killa.

It was as if he decided that this was finally his time, and instead of ending the show with his bandmates, took centre stage and began freestyling, with DJ Mathematics supplying some breaks.

Ghostface wandered back onto the side of stage, seemingly confused, before bringing out a rapping busker he had met earlier in the day, who admirably rose to the occasion.

Following this brief interruption, Masta Killa resumed rhyming, even after the DJ stopped playing and also quit the stage. Eventually as the house lights were lit and people began shuffling out, the rapper ceased performing and merely demanded people give him weed, which many did, much to the perplexion of the stage and security crew.

It was a weird footnote in an otherwise polished performance from the legendary Wu-Tang Clan.

Published in Beat Magazine on 2/03/2016. View article here.

Photograph in article by Ian Laidlaw.

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