See pictures from Wu-Tang Clan’s concert at Continental Airlines Arena.
See pictures from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s last NYC performance at BB King’s RIP.
See pictures from the Wu-Tang Clan show at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
For the 10,000 or so Wu-Tang fans that packed into the theater at Continental Airlines Arena (part of the Meadowlands sports complex where the New Jersey Nets play their home games), it was a bittersweet weekend to say the least. After witnessing one of the most anticipated Hip-Hop concerts in recent history on Friday, many fans would be shocked to find out that Russell Jones aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard passed away less than 24 hours later after collapsing in a Manhattan recording studio Saturday night.
What made the weekend of November 12th even more eerie was the fact that Ol’ Dirty was the only Wu member to be a no show at the concert. Although his absence was certainly disappointing, no one could have predicted what was to come next. Over the last decade many members of the Clan have become notorious for missing shows and arriving at functions more than fashionably late. While ODB was scheduled to perform alongside his Wu-brethren, his truancy was not exactly out of character. What made it somewhat unusual was the fact that all ten MCs agreed to put aside their individual schedules and come together for their first collective east coast performance in over five years. You’d figure if there was one show Dirty wouldn’t brush aside – this was it. The Rza, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, The Gza, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, U-God and Raekwon were all in attendance. And truth be told, even without the eccentric genius of Dirt McGirt, that’s more than enough talent to rock three shows, let alone one.
Rather than having opening acts, the Wu elected to open for themselves – each of the nine members present would perform individually before the entire Clan would form like Voltron and hit the fans with that heavyweight dose of W.itty U.npredictable T.alent A.nd N.atural G.ame. The show began shortly after 8pm as Hot 97’s DJ Mr. Cee made his way to the front of the stage. “This is an honor for me as well”, declared Cee, “as I have never had the opportunity to witness the entire Wu-Tang Clan perform together”. With Mathematics manning the wheels of steel, the show was ready to begin and Mr. Cee introduced the first Clan member to take the stage – U-God aka Golden Arms. As thousands of fans chanted in unison WU-TANG!!! WU-TANG!!! WU-TANG!!! Golden Arms came out sporting a dark blue Yankees cap, both of his wrists adorned with four inch wide bracelets encrusted with diamonds and bearing the Wu-Tang logo. Surprisingly Ghostface, who would perform later on, chose to leave all of his exotic Slick Rick-esque jewelry at home.
Performing material from his recent Ugodz-illa Presents compilation, U-God kept the crowd amused by faking a fall during the first song of his set. Lying motionless for several seconds Golden Arms came to life just in time to recite the track’s second verse as he lay outstretched propping his head up with his left hand and gripping the mic with the right. With nine individual performances in total, each member would only get about ten to twelve minutes of airtime, so after doing three more songs U-God bid the crowd farewell and Inspektah Deck aka The Rebel INS came out from behind the black curtain. With an energetic stage presence and confident swagger Deck delivered the type of performance we would expect from one of the Clan’s sharpest lyricists. Rocking a red camouflage bandana, the articulate MC blessed the crowd with jewel after jewel including his verse off The Mystery Of Chessboxin, a classic cut from the Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut Enter The 36 Chambers.
Up next would be Cappadonna – coming out guns blazing Cappa opened with a dynamic rendition of Milk This Cow, igniting the crowd in yet another frenzy. It was Cappadonna who once said, “I’ma keep changing my clothes again and again”, and that’s exactly what he did. Laced in gray sports attire for his initial performance Cappa would reappear alongside the rest of the Wu about an hour later dressed in a custom tailored brown suit. The man lives his lyrics; you gotta give him props for that. Oftentimes Cappadonna’s relationship with the rest of the Clan has seemed as enigmatic as his lyrics. The MC known for spitting rhymes that sound good but don’t always make sense has been kicked out and reinstated on several occasions. However, on this night Cappa’s status was not in question as he delivered a strong performance before conceding the stage to the one and only Gza.
In a strange turn of events, the Wu’s deepest MC came out with a hype man who was no more than ten or eleven years old. While this would have been a welcome change of pace under most circumstances, the young boy seemed intent on accenting almost every line of every song, often interrupting and breaking up Gza’s flow. Someone should have explained to the young lad that his job on stage was to compliment the man they call The Genius, not share the spotlight with him. In spite of the minor difficulties of an overzealous, underage hype man, The Gza delivered a powerful set which included Shadowboxing, Liquid Swords and his verse off the classic Guillotine. “The land of the lost / Notorious henchmen from the North / Strickin’ niggas where the Mason-Dixon line cross” – the show could have ended right there and it would have already been worth well over the $48 ticket price.
Masta Killa was the next Clansman to take to the stage. Doing tracks from his ten years in the making debut LP No Said Date, the MC often regarded as the least vocal member of the star studded Clan quickly established a dialogue with the audience. By the end of his well arranged set nearly everyone in the arena was chanting the name of his new album – No Said Date!!! No Said Date!!! No Said Date!!! – mission accomplished.
Next came the most chaotic and disorganized performance of the evening – Raekwon The Chef aka Lex Diamonds. Looking like he rolled out of bed and barely made it to the show, Rae came on stage wearing a pair of sweatpants and what appeared to be an aqua green suede jacket. Not even Cappadonna could have picked out this outfit. Rae was also one of the only members to come out with a sizeable entourage. While his intentions seemed proper Raekwon’s performance seemed painfully unrehearsed – and then it got worse. Aiming to add a noteworthy distinction to his set The Chef brought out a soul quartet to sing the memorable intro to Daytona 500. Unfortunately it appeared as though the last time the group lent their vocals to the track was back in 1996 when the Ironman LP first came out. The timing was off and on more than one occasion Raekwon and the quartet interrupted each other. Rae also took time to plug his forthcoming fourth LP Only Built For Cuban Linx Part 2.
Tagging in to save his partner, Ghostface Killah alluded to his longstanding love of soul music prior to a well received rendition of Holla and several other tracks off The Pretty Toney Album. Ghost reminisced of being sent to his bedroom as a little boy while his parents listened to soul and smoked weed with their friends. Young Dennis Coles would be listening at the door. The verbally flamboyant MC would perform his new hit single Run about half an hour later with support from the entire Wu-Tang Clan. Ghost was also joined on stage by members of his new protégé group Theodore Unit; which also features Cappadonna and Ghost himself.
Up next was the Wu’s most energetic and charismatic MC this side of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Method Man stormed the stage with more pep than Michael Vick on gameday. Jumping on top of the metal barricade in front of the ground level fans, Meth successfully completed a trapeze routine walking across the top of the railing while holding on to the outstretched hands of hundreds of eager spectators. Ripping through Bring The Pain and several other classics, Mr. Mef showed little hesitation diving into the crowd; mic still in hand, still spittin’ as the frantic fans maneuvered the rapper back and forth above them. “Nobody – I said nobody – rips a stage like the Wu-Tang Clan”, professed the action packed MC whose performance was a trip down memory lane and a sports highlight reel all rolled into one. However, the most elaborate entrance was yet to come.
Dramatically emerging as the unlikely victor following a breathtaking ten man martial arts battle staged by the US chapter of the Shaolin Temple, the Rza brought to light all of the original elements and imagery of the Wu-Tang Clan while mesmerizing 10,000 fans in the process. Bottom line – the US Shaolin Temple is no joke, these cats made it seem real. Unfortunately the Abbott’s vision has been slightly diluted over the years, especially as his influence and involvement has faded with second and third generation Wu solo projects. As the Wu-Tang Clan prepares to assemble once again, the Rza’s enduring wisdom will be crucial if we are to see the type of resurgence Wu fans are hoping for. After doing four solo joints and receiving much love from the crowd, the Rza – just like all before him – disappeared behind the black curtain.
And then it started; chants of O-D-B!!! O-D-B!!! It began with isolated pockets at the front of the stage but the chant could not be contained and quickly spread in all directions filling Continental Airlines Arena. Nobody was sure what would happen next. Would ODB come out? Nobody knew. All of a sudden snippets of Brooklyn Zoo and Shimmy Shimmy Ya sounded over the arena’s soundsystem. But instead of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the other nine members of the Clan rushed out on stage. For a few moments it was unclear whether or not ODB had made himself apparent alongside his fellow Clansmen as Cappa’s wardrobe change served as somewhat of a decoy. But after thundering renditions of Reunited and Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothing To Fuck With, Method Man dispelled all doubt. “I gotta say it”, said Meth; “who’s not here? If ya’ll see Ol’ Ditry Bastard tell him we need him here, his family needs him”. Russell Jones would be pronounced dead 24 hours later.
Electing not to do any tracks from either The W or Iron Flag, the world’s fiercest team of MCs covered an extensive array of material from Enter The 36 Chambers and Forever as well as several other select jewels including Triumph, C.R.E.A.M., It’s Yourz, Tearz, Method Man, Can It All Be So Simple, Ice Cream, Run and Da Rockwilder. Recently returning from an extended European tour, the Clan was in top form, flawlessly ripping through a seemingly endless catalog of classics to the delight of all present. “Hold on a second, let me say something”, expounded U-God, “this is a blessing for all of ya’ll to be here, and I love each and every single one of ya’ll and if I could kiss each and every single one of ya’ll, I would”. Prior to concluding the blazing 45 minute onslaught, The Rza walked to the front of the stage and asked the question everyone wanted to hear. “How many of you here would like to see another Wu-Tang album?” Continental Airlines Arena erupted in a resounding yes. While everyone else made their way off stage, Method Man came down into the crowd and shook hands with hundreds of people. The concert was two and a half hours long. Rest in peace Russell Jones.