Wu Tang Clan - Manchester Live Review

WuTang_Clan_1 Ever seen Nightbreed by Clive Barker? Probably not, but as a hymn to monsters it's worth a watch. One of the grotesque beasts furnishes our innocent, and still human, hero with three fundamental truths: God is an astronaut; Oz is over the rainbow; and Midian is where the monsters live. He could have added: if you go to a Wu Tang Clan concert it's highly probable that not all of them will bother turning up. Dependability is not something you can easily attribute to this rap collective. A dream tour with Rage Against The Machine was scuppered when they realised there was a schedule to adhere to. I went to see the RZA a couple of years ago and he was an hour and a half late and then his microphone wasn't working. I left in disgust after 2 songs. The Wu Tang Clan have visited Manchester a number of times previously and on each occasion one or more them have been missing, so my trepidation as I made my way to the front of the venue was palpable. Before the main attraction though, we have to endure two support acts. Mic Righteous and Bishop Nehru lack both the presence and the material to engage the crowd except when they ask if we are ready for the Wu Tang Clan. Instead it's left to DJ Semtex (a Cheetham Hill native from whom I used to buy my hip hop vinyl) to build the atmosphere and anticipation, spinning hits by Dr. Dre, Pharoah Monche, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac. Finally RZA stalks with intent to the lip of the stage and barks the order to throw up our Ws. I immediately notice that the stage is at least 4 Wu MCs light. Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, GZA are present, but where's everyone else? I'm seriously contemplating storming out when U-God, Masta Killa, Cappadonna each make dramatic entrances. The roof of the venue is volubly removed as Method Man bounds on stage and spits his verse on Shame On A N---a. This is a genuinely precious moment in hip hop: the whole of the Wu Tang Clan on the same stage and it's as incredible as you'd imagine. Their distinct personalities and rapping styles means it's like watching a group of comic book Superheroes come to life in front of your eyes. Immense. Tonight the beats resonate like a Kaiju stomping through downtown Hong Kong. The bass is an ominous low end rumble, punching you in the solar plexis. This is visceral and truly exhilarating. They're a 9 man charisma machine. Face-splitting smiles roll off the stage and spread through the auditorium. This is fun. For them and us. Method Man seemingly can't stop launching himself into the arms of a delighted audience. Running through classics such as M.E.T.H.O.D. Man, Bring Da Ruckus, and my Mother's favourite Wu Tang Clan Ain€™t Nuthing Ta F--k Wit, the crowd rap every word, at times drowning out the band. Even the interludes draw tinnitus inducing roars of approval. An ODB tribute features Shimmy Shimmy Ya and Got Your Money, every hand in the building reaching for sky. There is also a great little cameo from DJ Allah Mathematics which sees him cutting up beats and orchestral stabs, rocking the 1s and 2s (decks) with his bare feet after taking off his trainers mid-scratch. I've got over 120 (count em! I just did, actually, thanks) Wu related albums and as sublime as each one undoubtedly is, none of them come close to capturing the vibrancy and excitement of this live performance. The light and heat generated by these superstar rappers is on a par with anything the gloriously flame-licked Rammstein can conjure and makes you realise just how vital hip hop is as an art form. This European tour is an effort to drum up interest in Wu-Tang Clan's 20th anniversary and the upcoming release of A Better Tomorrow, something of a comeback record after the poorly received 8 Diagrams back in 2007. I'm already looking forward to it and one of the best gigs I've ever witnessed is the perfect preparation. If you get the chance don't hesitate, go see them.
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A writer and musician with an unnecessarily inflated ego. A lover of music, literature, and films, and a student of politics. Read more of me at my award-winning blog and follow me on twitter. Hit me up if you've got any questions or to make enquiries about my sanity: basilcreesejr@hotmail.com