Wu-Tang Clan; La the Darkman; A.Dd+ with Picnictyme, DJ Sober and Sore Losers; Rob Viktum and Jay Clipp
Friday, December 10, 2010
Better Than: Even the most optimistic fan could expect a hip-hop clusterfuck with AWOL members and a late start to be.
To say there was reason to be skeptical when the Granada Theater announced a show with the fully reunited (with the one obvious exception) Wu-Tang Clan would be an understatement. The smart money was on a cancellation, or at best a mostly reunited version of the group with a few missing pieces.
Then, sure enough, just days before the show, RZA drops off the tour. Further fueling the pessimists, U-God was the only Wu member who calls in for a planned group interview with print version of DC9, and offers nothing but apathy about the tour.
But if the Wu -- last night also missing Method Man along with RZA -- had any intention of half-assing their way through the show, they had no choice but to give it their full effort after a blazing opening set from A.Dd+, which was loaded with guest appearances.
A.Dd+ and Picnictyme didn't need any help to get the crowd bouncing, but a great guest appearance from a female singer, Mizz LV, offering beautiful hypnotic backup vocals added a welcome touch of soul to their set. Meanwhile, "Likeamug," which saw appearances from both Brown and Blue of Sore Losers, nearly brought the house down, and definitively proved that all parties are ready for their close-up. The shout-out tribute to Pimp C and one-verse cover of UGK's "International Players Anthem" wasn't necessary to get the crowd on their side, though -- but who'd turn down an opportunity to sing along with it?
Wu tour support La the Darkman couldn't quite match their energy, but gamely put up with "Wu-Tang!" chants and W hand signs throughout his transitional set and seemed to mostly win over a crowd that for the most part had no idea who he was.
But once the beat for "Bring Da Ruckus" started up, all that ceased to matter. And the crowd -- steaming and sweating, nut-to-butt, mostly white and easily the most jam-packed I've ever seen the Granada -- shouted along with every word. It was a mess in the same way the best parties are a hazy, sloppy mess, where you go home reeking of blunt smoke whether or not you indulge, your clothes soaked in other people's sweat and beer.
The chaos extended to the stage, with many songs cut off after a single chorus, and piped in vocal parts from missing (dead or otherwise) members making it look as if there was occasional lip-synching and dudes stepping on each others' lines.
But that's to be expected from such a collective of egos.
The night started with Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) interspersed with Raekwon and GZA solo material, but frequently returned to the obvious crowd favorite 36 Chambers material. They even did "Method Man" in Method's absence, and the crowd didn't seem fazed.
Another highlight was a cameo by Erykah Badu, who stepped on stage long enough to soak in the roar of approval from the crowd but sadly didn't touch the mic. Still, the moment was enough to add to the love-fest, family reunion vibe. As did the appearance from Young Dirty Bastard, son of the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, who led the group through verses of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Baby I Got Your Money" in tribute to his father. Which might be why the group's sorta-sincere cover of the O'Jays "Family Reunion" went over so well.
Closing the set with 36 Chambers classics "C.R.E.A.M." and "Protect Ya Neck," the Wu departed in a swarm, leaving some random MCs on the stage to lead the crowd through chants of "Wu! Tang!" until the shouts gradually and awkwardly died down as the realization set in that yup, that was it.
Of course, it wasn't the full Clan promised, but only a sucker would expected as much.
And only an ingrate wouldn't be completely satisfied with the version of Wu that rocked the house for an hour and a half. It was a night showing the best of hip-hop's past and, for those who witnessed A.Dd+ and friends, its future.
Personal Bias: My own Wu-Tang ranking would be pretty similar to that of Cory Graves, but with Method Man and ODB higher on the list. Meth's live energy (which was on display in Phoenix a couple days ago -- why'd Dallas get the shaft?) would have put an already bananas show over the top. Also, for all his don't-give-a-shit attitude in pre-show interviews, U-God's tight a capella freestyle after "Method Man" may just move him up from No. 9 in my book.
By The Way: The unexpected opening set by La the Darkman proved to be more than just a time-kill. "Black James Bond" was a great transition from the gritty bounce of A.Dd+ to the Wu's crime narratives.
Random Note: A friend who'd seen the Wu's backstage rider said they requested 162 condoms for this show. Aside from the question of how many condoms each fortysomething Wu member (and, OK, maybe the weed holders in their entourage) could possibly use in a single night, that number seems rather optimistic for another reason -- there may not have even been 162 females at the show. It was a sausage fest.