January 9, 2011
For a hip-hop collective with a back catalog as formidable as Wu-Tang Clan's, the potential is there, during a live performance, to just count on the fiery nature of your hits to carry you through a show. Playing the last gig of their winter Rebirth Tour at a full but not sold-out Epic on Sunday night (Monday morning, actually), the group came out with a lot of energy at the start that unfortunately fizzled out by show's end, leaving their fans with a lukewarm, unfocused set that really leaves one wondering about the current state of the Wu.
The sonic ringleader of the group, RZA, was defiantly and conspicuously absent on this tour, especially considering all of the disgruntled mutterings within the Wu camp about how unhappy they were with the sound and direction of their last album, 8 Diagrams. His presence would have brought some much needed continuity to the Wu's uneven, muddled performance, but the rest of the still impressive crew of MC's brought out a crateful of classics throughout their 80-minute set that were met with loud ovations from a crowd still trying to keep their energy level up late into the cold Minneapolis night.
The opening of the show, despite not getting going until nearly 1 a.m., was a blur of activity and intensity, as the group tore through "Bring Da Ruckus," "Shame On A N***A," "Clan In Da Front," and "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin' Ta Fuck Wit" that got the night off to a rousing start. But the sound mix was continually muddy throughout the set, with certain MC's mic's not loud enough to even hear their flow over the booming bass. GZA and Ghostface, in particular, both seemed to be rather disinterested during the show, leaving the other guys to do most of the heavy lifting. Method Man is generally always up for carrying a performance, and he did his best through the early stages of the show, but even he seemed worn out by the night's fitful end.
The hits still kept coming, though in an abbreviated, truncated format that so many hip-hop artists favor in order to pack more songs into the show. So "Method Man," "Ice Cream," "Reunited," and "Protect Ya Neck," while not being the best live versions of the tracks I've ever seen the group do, were still able to soar simply based on the potency of the source material alone. After the group seemed to sleepwalk through a tepid version of "C.R.E.A.M.," Method Man stated that: "This is the point of the show dedicated to the memory of Ol' Dirty Bastard. I don't know if y'all are going to believe this, but ODB is physically in the building tonight." At which point they introduced ODB's first born son, Young Dirty Bastard, who came onstage to lead the group through a couple of his father's tracks, including "Shimmy Shimmy Ya."
By this point, the crowd was thinning out and the group was, quite frankly, running out of steam. Even a spirited version of "Da Rockwilder" by Meth (which featured a shoutout to the Minnesota Twins afterward) failed to ignite a strange end to the show that didn't feature an encore or even a definitive last track, as the group randomly left the stage while a beat was still bumping and the sparse crowd was still up for more. They must have reached curfew, since it was 2 a.m. at this point, leaving us all to either head out into the cold or else get some Wu gear, which the band had no trouble peddling throughout the night, telling us to "Get something for your Grandma-fuck it, she likes the Wu-Tang Clan too." But, after a tired, pedestrian performance such as this one, there is no guarantee that their hardcore fan base in this city (or their grandparents) will bother to show up next time the Wu-Tang Clan rolls through town.
Critic's Bias: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is one of my favorite hip-hop records of all time, and was a constant staple on my stereo during my college years.
The Crowd: Substantial at the start of the set, but the later it got in the night, the more it thinned out.
Overheard In The Crowd: A woman practically crying when she found out RZA wasn't going to be there.
Random Notebook Dump: The sightlines and the sound mix at Epic are truly horrible, even in the supposed "V.I.P." section, where you still can only see about half of the stage.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Tony Nelson, including shots of openers Muja Messiah, Maria Isa, Coughee Brothaz North, L.A.D., and Meta.