The Wu-Tang Clan should establish a group motto: perhaps something like "it’s no show without a no-show." Those who turn out for the highly-regarded Staten Island hip-hop outfit have grown used to the fact that the full advertised line-up won’t be what they actually get, but so extensive are the Clan’s solo careers that they’ll inevitably be consoled by the presence of at least two or three of the genre’s most established names.
For this first night of a three-date UK tour it was Method Man and Masta Killa’s turn to stay at home, with GZA, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah on the rota for a bit of graft.
Under such circumstances the rebranding as Wu Legends was mysterious, implying as it did that we’d be getting a set which was in any way out of the ordinary. Yet this was the standard Wu-Tang travelling show, a slim coterie of one DJ laying on the beats and the pre-show hype action, and three MCs pounding the stage spitting rhymes at us. The format, the heavily pre-recorded backing and the running time of a little over an hour meant it often felt like little more than a PA, albeit one with a slew of rap classics performed by at least some of their originators attached.
In the event the crowd made all the difference, responding to Ghostface Killah’s mock anger at the apparently low volume they were shouting with to such an extent that the roared chant of “Wu! Tang!” a few songs later was admiringly described as “the Gladiator shit”. They were helped along their way by an extended medley which included such brute rhymes as "Protect Ya Neck", "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Ain't Nothin' Ta Fuck Wit", causing a Crewmember to exclaim with unanticipated wistfulness: “I can feel the love within your energy” and demand the crowd “Christmas tree it” with lighters and phones in the air for the old-school slow jam "Can It All Be So Simple?"
It was by no means a vintage show, but there was a certain rowdy communion between the group and their crowd when, for example, the familiar grind of "Gravel Pit" landed or the closing of "Triumph" dropped with a rib-hitting bassline, giving the resonance of communal excitement to the group’s claim that “you're the same mother****ers as us and we’re the same mother****ers as you - straight bangers.”
And then, perhaps more tellingly than any finely-meant words that passed between heroes and fans, it was time to ask everyone to buy a T-shirt.
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