Wu-Tang Clan at Epic, 1/7/12

They might be battle-hardened rap assassins, but the Wu-Tang Clan aren't above having a good time.  The Clan were clearly up for a party on Saturday night at Epic, with Method Man admitting that hip hop is supposed to be fun:  "Since when are hip-hop fans too cool to put their hands in the air?" he posed to a packed house.

The Staten Island legends showed up to appease their rabid Minneapolis fanbase and  were able to turn a catalog full of aggressive rap classics into rapid-fire crowd pleasers even without the help of GZA, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. Though the absences were noticeable, it didn't get the audience down.
The line to get into the club wrapped around the block for the better part of the night, with fans slowly (very slowly) trickling in after being patted down by security. DJs AppleJews and Kor dropped hip hop classics while the club filled in, a welcome departure from having too many opening acts muddy the vibe around the headliners.  Instead, Wu tourmates (and extended family members) Brooklyn Zu took the stage and kept the feel cohesive, warming up the crowd with a sound ripped straight from the Wu-Tang playbook.

Zu members Raison the Zookeeper, Murdoc, and Shorty Shitstain (the line for grossest stage name ever starts right here) were obvious Wu acolytes, radiating that specific brand of hard, crew-based New York rap even before they made it known that they were "doing it for ODB"--a nod to Ol' Dirty Bastard, the famously deranged Wu-Tang member who passed away in 2004.

None of the members of BZ had the bizarre charisma of ODB, but the group came with an energy that was hard to dismiss.  BZ's big, raucous choruses were backed with muscular beats, such a close Wu-Tang analog that the crowd was pleased even before the Clan appeared.  Nothing from the group went on longer than two minutes, keeping the proceedings fresh even if their style was borrowed wholesale from the masters.

After a brief break, the entire Clan swarmed the stage with zero fanfare or theatrics--they just showed up and immediately started rapping.  RZA, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna were all present, but just as Deck had stated in our interview, Ghostface, Raekwon, and GZA were all absent.  That kind of dent in the roster could have made for a disappointing show, but the present members (along with some help from Meth's cousin Streetlife (who showed up on the Smoker's Tour at First Avenue late in 2011) were bent on delivering a good show.

The crowd smashed to the front in an excited mess, holding up ODB shirts like flags and shamelessly trying to pass lit joints to the Clan members onstage.  They rapped along with their favorites, and the crew kept 'em coming in a steady stream, playing loads of material from 36 Chambers and Wu-Tang Forever, leaving off almost everything from the controversial 8 Diagrams.

Both Method Man and Cappadonna were vicious, performing with an energy that kept the entire show afloat.  RZA, who skipped last January's Wu show at Epic, made his presence known in spurts, mostly hanging towards the back of the group while swilling (and spitting) Moet, coming out to strike only periodically but making it count each time. Deck was troubled with what seemed like a faulty mic, but was a furious presence when it came time for a punishing version of favorite "Triumph".

In all, while the Ghost/Rae/GZA absences were a disappointment, the remaining Clan members showed up to have fun, and the party atmosphere was worth the price of admission. If you came to witness the spectacle of every single Wu-Tang member onstage at one time, you might have left dismayed--but if you came to hear the group's classic tracks performed in their singular, inimitable way, it was a great night to be a hip-hop fan.

Personal Bias: My favorite Wu members (GZA and Ghostface) weren't there. Still, it was excellent to see RZA (who wasn't on the last tour).
The Crowd:  Amped.  Singing along and excited to see their favorites performed.
Overheard in the Crowd: Girl backstage to Method Man: "Do you watch Real Housewives?"
Random Notebook Dump:  Method Man still loves to crowdsurf, but didn't get a chance to throw a table this time around (as he did at First Ave in October).

Photos: Check out the full slideshow by B Fresh Photography

Setlist:  The set played out like a mega-mix of crowd favorites from the older albums.  Here's what we caught:

Killa Beez
Shame on a Nigga
M.E.T.H.O.D. Man
Ice Cream
Bring The Pain
Winter Warz
Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothin'' Ta Fuck Wit
Gravel Pit

Check out our interviews with the Wu Tang Clan backstage:

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