Live Last Night: Wu-Tang Clan

At some concerts, a set list can go a long way to determining the quality of the show. The Wu-Tang Clan equivalent is which members of the sprawling rap crew show up on a given night. The Clan has been without its most bizarre and entertaining member, the late Ol' Dirty Bastard (aka Dirt McGirt aka Big Baby Jesus aka Osiris) for four years, and on Thursday night at the 9:30 club was also missing Method Man, the de facto ringleader and fan favorite, and GZA, the group's most gifted lyricist. (Only the latter was promoted as being on the bill.) So the end result was something like going to a Wizards game at which neither Gilbert Arenas nor Caron Butler play. Yes, it's still the real thing, but it's hard to feel like you're getting your money's worth.

It didn't help that another of the group's superstars, Ghostface Killah, may as well have no-showed. On record he spits out rhymes with a "Let me at 'em!" intensity but on Thursday it was more "Let me just chill back here." Ghost was content to hang in the background while second tier -- but admittedly more enthusiastic -- members U-God and Inspectah Deck controlled the mics. Ghostface spent the entire middle portion of the show just lurking on the side, emerged to deliver a final verse while leaning on one of the stage's speakers and then retired backstage. Raekwon, the best of the remaining MCs, admirably picked up the slack, no doubt to help promote his upcoming album, a sequel to his 1995 classic "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx."

Unlike a number of rap groups, the Clan makes no efforts to enhance its songs with any sort of live instrumentation. There was no token drummer or bassist, just DJ Mathematics queuing up the beats while the everyone hovered around the stage waiting for his turn in the spotlight. After the Lil Wayne/T-Pain spectacle a few days earlier it was actually kind of refreshing, and when they traded off sharp verses in quick succession, as on opener "Da Mystery of Chessboxin" there was an easy flow to the proceedings. Songs from the band's debut, "Enter the 36 Chambers," received the biggest cheers, and with good reason. The spare, menacing beats of "Ain't Nuthin Ta [Expletive] Wit" and "Clan in Da Front" still sound fresh as did the lyrical mixture of violence, references to people like Geraldine Ferraro and Richard Dawson and the group's own invented slang.

But as the set wore on, both the crowd and the Clan seemed to lose interest. The song fragments became shorter, the promotion of various side projects became more pronounced the guest spots became unbearable. By the very end, the show reduced to close to a dozen members of the opening acts doing unaccompanied freestyles while the Clan members slowly filed off stage. The audience members similarly headed for the exits.

By David Malitz |  January 2, 2009; 7:26 PM ET Live Last Night
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Nice review. I would have emphasized more how thunderingly bad the closing unaccompanied freestyles were. Just beyond awful, not worthy of sharing the stage with the Clansters who showed up. Also the ratio of white people to black people in the audience was way higher than usual.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 4, 2009 4:59 PM

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