On their first Midwest trek since Winter 2008, Wu-Tang Clan brought the ruckus on what was officially promoted as The Rebirth Tour. I'm not sure how less than two years off of major touring plus sporadic performances in the meantime warrants a "rebirth," but it was my first opportunity to see the Clan live and I wasn't gonna miss it.
With the exception of Nas and Damian Marley tours, it seems like every hip-hop show has to begin with at least five terrible openers. So lo and behold, who might be onstage when I first walked into the venue? Yep. The white, suburban dread-headed hippie who used to drum for Four Letter Lie. You remember the story. How he got on the bill is beyond me, but he was received with about the same amount of boos from the hip-hopheads as cheers from the suburban high schoolers whose parents dropped them off downtown. Muja Messiah, Maria Isa and the Coughee Brothaz North all managed to hold it down well enough to keep the crowd entertained until the headliner arrived, but it was clear everyone was ready for Wu-Tang.
Finally, DJ Allah Mathematics set the records spinning to "Bring Da Ruckus", which seemed to get everyone amped and opened up the crowd enough for me to dart nearly to the front from the mid-back. I knew going in that the RZA wasn't going to be on the tour and I had pretty much come to terms with the idea that any given hip-hop group may only be sporting a couple of their key members when perform. So I was significantly floored when it turned out that the entire rest of the Clan was onstage performing, from Method Man and Raekwon to Wu-affiliate semi-members like Cappadonna and Streetlife.
With the lack of the Abbot, Method Man seemed to take over as de facto ringleader, turning in an energetic and impassioned set that included crowd interaction and shout-outs to the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, and neighboring city, St. Paul. After pumping through fan favorites like "Shame on a Nigga", "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" and "Protect Ya Neck", the Clan delved into some tracks from The W with Masta Killa taking a rare turn behind the mic on "One Blood Under W" and "Do Ya Really? (Thang Thang)".
A bevy of solo songs followed, with "Method Man", Raekwon's "Ice Cream", GZA's "Liquid Swords", U-GOD's "Dat's Gangsta" and Cappadonna's "97 Mentality". Cappadonna sounded far and away the best behind the microphone, as his voice seemed to have just the right frequency to carry above the chest-thumping beats. On the inverse, Inspectah Deck (who looks like a doppleganger of J.B. Smoove in person) sounds the best on recordings, but was barely audible in concert. Ol' Dirty Bastard's firstborn son (and virtual clone) Young Dirty Bastard made a surprise appearance to perform "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" in his dad's honor, which ended up being one of the more memorable moments of the night.
After the show, Young Dirty Bastard was outside the club slingin' demos as if his father wasn't a universal superstar and he wasn't on tour with the biggest hip-hop group on the planet. I'm not sure if it's some type of rite of passage or what, but it was certainly interesting. Method Man stuck around signing autographs and posing for pictures for at least 15 minutes after the set, a move that only bolstered my respect for the group who could just as easily get in, make their money, and get out.
Sure, there were some annoying things to deal with like the aggressive bouncers and an overload of suburban white kids, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. For my first live experience with the group, Wu-Tang Clan put on a great show, and one that few mainstream hip-hop acts could probably top.