Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wu-Tang Clan – Hammersmith Apollo, July 5

You don’t go to Wu-Tang gigs expecting to lose yourself in the music, in fact you’re lucky if you can hear the music over the dismally engineered sound and combined shouting of whichever members have deigned to turn up. You’re more likely to be there to pay homage to one of late 20th century music’s most enduring cultural colossuses, an affiliation of talent, innovation and raw energy the like of which has rarely been seen.

It’s a hit and miss affair this pilgrimage, often disappointed by shoddy turnouts from the Clan or worse than dismal live productions but at Hammersmith Apollo last week they delivered a full house, even bringing film star and errant child Method Man back into the fold. To add to the congenial atmosphere of family reunion, it also happened to be both Wu-patriarch, RZA, and Inspectah Deck’s birthdays, so each member was equipped with a bottle of Dom Perignon and the Cognac flowed liberally throughout the night. So much so, that both a virtually immobile Raekwon and visibly shitfaced Streetlife were seriously worse-for-wear.

Last time they attacked this same stage back in 2004 it was Ghostface Killah that led proceedings, rightfully hailed as the only member consistent enough in his solo efforts to have earned the unfailing respect of the crowd. But tonight, despite stunning triumphs with his last two albums, Ghost takes a back seat to the hyperactive Method Man as the crowd celebrates his return to the brotherhood. Meth - perhaps because he can hold his drink - bounds about the stage with the energy of a hyperactive teen, frequently throws himself into the crowd and even overshadows the RZA in his command of the audience. Finally, we get to hear “Method Man” and “Bring The Pain” as they were intended and verses from “Ice Cream” to the still-peerless posse cut “Protect Ya Neck” (“Can I get a "sue"? / Nuff respect due to the one-six-ooh”) are elevated by his utterly distinctive, artful drawl.

At the heart of the celebration is the communion between fan and group, both ecstatic that it’s still possible to draw all these people together to celebrate the Wu revolution so many years on. It's good to see an act evidently having so much fun for a change and a hip hop show where the performers really respect and appreciate their crowd. Whether or not we can plausibly expect great things from the forthcoming “8 Diagrams” – and, honestly, you wouldn’t write it off – its difficult to name another act that’s enjoyed 15 years quite like this.


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