January 21, 2012
Sorry, but Wu-Tang Clan is something to fuck with these days. Sure, their fans remain passionate — a group of grown-ass music writers I know do almost nothing but analyze their lyrics and recent solo projects — but there's fewer of them. The group's relevance has shrunk to almost nothing; as articulated last night by Masta Killa, who was doing much of the speaking for the collective, they stand for “real hip-hop.” But nobody gives an ish about real hip-hop anymore.
Still, the Wu-Tang Clan is the Wu-Tang Clan, and anyone with that much firepower in their back catalog should be a pleasure in concert, even if Club Nokia is a perplexing, counterintuitive venue, seemingly devoting as much real estate to strangely-lit lounges from where the stage is not visible, to space where it is. But one problem last night was that Raekwon and Ghostface Killah were absent. In their place? Cappadonna and Streetlife, which is sort of like trading Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser for Buddy Biancalana and a player to be named later. Seriously, Streetlife did almost nothing besides tote a joint in one hand and a bottle in the other, at one point resting his head against the speaker on the side of the stage as if he were about to doze off. (Dude, ever heard of tinnitus?)
One guy who definitely didn't phone it in, however, was Method Man, who almost single-handedly salvaged what was otherwise a low-energy affair. He was bouncing and dancing and then, suddenly, stage diving. He performed whole verses while stooping and locking arms with audience members, and generally reminded you of why he was once pegged for the group's Michael Jackson-style breakout role.
Also on hand were the 45-year-old, cable-knit sweater clad GZA — aka the Genius — and Hollywood professional RZA, aka the Renius. RZA told us he'd now lived in L.A. for two years, which I didn't know, but he certainly looked the part. He came out in shades and some sort of fashion couture scarf, not to mention a glittery, Ed Hardy-ish t-shirt and freaking gloves, the kind you use for, like, the Tour de France. I suppose we should have been glad he appeared at all, considering there was a near-mutiny against him a few years ago after his production style took a turn for the subtley cinematic, but that certainly doesn't mean there were a plethora of 8 Diagrams tracks being performed last night.
Artistic differences aren't going to get in these guys' ways, after all, so long as there's more money to be made performing together than solo. (Doing anything otherwise just wouldn't be C.R.E.A.M.y.) But they don't seem poised for Rolling Stones-style touring longevity, if only because their stage show is lackluster. Some of it wasn't their fault; the venue's acoustics are not sharp, and any time eight cordless mics are being passed around there are going to be problems. But one wonders — where's the pizzazz? I didn't expect choreography, but maybe some dancing girls? A video reenactment of “Method Man”? Some solo segments? One has to wonder how many of the folks paying $60 for 75 minutes of show — which included an anachronistic freestyle display from their DJ Allah Mathematics, who admittedly has the best name ever — are going to come back next time? I won't be, unless maybe they rope back in Ghostface to do some stand-up about how they tried to get him to go to Big Doe Rehab and he said “no, no, no.”
Critical Bias: The one and only non-Tribe rap CD my wife owns is Wu-Tang Forever, so you just know they sold a lot of them fuckers.
The Crowd: People who know the difference between the West coast “W” hand sign and the Wu-Tang “W” hand sign.
Random Notebook Dump: Inspectah Deck is a much better name than Deck Inspectah.