Brixton Academy’s denizens welcomed the return of hip hop’s most-lauded super group, Wu-Tang Clan with much anticipation. Twenty years have flown by since the release of 1993’s sinister, soulful and game-changing Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – a monumental album which marked the genesis of what was to become one of the most successful hip hop runs in history.
And Brixton was more than ready for them, with most of the local pubs being jam-packed with fans wearing Wu-Tang shirts well before the gig had begun. With founder RZA feeling confident about the reunion tour in interviews, even the casual hip hop fan would have been squirming in their seat at the mention of the show.
It was amid this hype that the mad scientist behind the Staten Island collective opened proceedings. RZA looked suitably oddball in his chintzy specs and Wu-Tang long sleeve, emerging at the start of the night to perform You Can’t Stop Me Now – an ominous bass-heavy solo track made under his solo Bobby Digital alias. Just as the crowd was warming to this, the surviving original Wu-Tang members made an appearance – RZA was joined by GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Raekwon and Inspectah Deck. Each member could have been a film or cartoon character, with their enigmatic personalities and alter egos which references the likes of Tony Starks and Shaolin films. Their DJ, Allah Mathematics, was also present.
During the tracks from 36 Chambers, it was Method Man who seemed to carry the most energy out of the group. His signature husky delivery particularly shone on the likes of the self-referencing Method Man and Bring The Pain, a solo track from his album Tical.
Although GZA himself seemed remarkably lax, it was his solo material that really stole the limelight. Whether it was during the eponymous off-kilter banger from his classic LP Liquid Swords or the amped up 4th Chamber, his flow seemed charmingly insouciant. Ghostface Killah even removed the towel from his forehead to deliver a ferocious guest verse during 4th Chamber. The contrast worked surprisingly well.
For many Wu-Tang fans, Raekwon is a personal favourite – he has a remarkable gift of painting vivid pictures of gritty street stories with his lyrics. But tonight he took a backseat, remaining the little boy in the corner who didn’t want to get fully involved. RZA, on the other hand, was in his element. “This is real hip hop, this ain’t no watered down shit,” he remarked whilst wielding a bottle of Hennessey. He later encouraged the whole audience to sing along and sway their hands to Come Together by The Beatles. It seemed remarkably out of place, but nonetheless entertaining.
The band did not hesitate to pay their respects to deceased member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who according to Method Man “loved London and always wanted to have sex with the Queen”. They then rallied through tributes, playing some of his hits including Shimmy Shimmy Ya and I Got Ya Money, before moving on to group cuts Gravel Pit and Triumph. DJ Allah Mathematics even had a chance to impress the crowd. He showed off his mixing skills – demonstrating that he was able to simultaneously mix well and take off both of his shoes before using his feet to help on the mixing duties, and more than proved that he was a worthy DJ for Wu-Tang Clan.
With so many classics under their collective belt, Wu-Tang Clan were never going to disappoint, even if at times some tracks were marred by the lack of energy of some members, as ODB’s presence loomed ominously throughout.