EmptyHouse of Blues, West Hollywood
Sunday, Dec. 23
The still-enormously popular Wu-Tang Clan stormed the West Hollywood House of Blues on Sunday like conquering hip-hop heroes. Problem was, they were a man short -- make that two.
But the high-wattage energy level in this 90-minute set was maintained principally because of the group's huge membership. An ever-evolving crew that included Ghostface Killah, U-God, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, Raekwon the Chef, Masta Killa and RZA recently released "8 Diagrams," a well-crafted collection that saw precious airtime during the evening.
Wu-Tang relied on a deep catalog of heavy-hitting singles that began with its anthem "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit," an appropriate opener that helped sustain the group's energy all night. Conspicuously missing was RZA, the acknowledged musical director of the group. As the set roared on, shouts of "Where's RZA?" amplified, but no explanation was forthcoming. This reviewer was looking forward to hearing "The Heart Gently Weeps," a brutal depiction of the inevitable violence that seems to be inextricably tied to the hip-hop culture. It borrows the track from George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Method Man is the most comfortable of the MCs onstage. He commandeered the microphone throughout the evening, sprayed bottled water, dove repeatedly into a mosh pit and then had the audacity -- not to mention trust -- to have the audience hold him upright as he rapped. It's a tried-and-true hype "method," and it worked again.
Method Man then launched into a lengthy tribute to the dearly departed clown prince of Wu-Tang, Ol' Dirty Bastard, who died of an drug overdose in 2004 after quite the tumultuous life that featured high-profile jail time, police chases and several classic hip-hop hits, including "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Protect Ya Neck."
About three-quarters into the set, the energy level took a dip as Raekwon launched into a monologue on how the group has been misunderstood. It's hard to agree, what with the crowd's adoration at ear-splitting levels. One element that Wu-Tang Clan has is an eerie, choirlike quality; whether planned or not, such an untapped element should be explored more. Where you at, RZA?
Wu-Tang Clan needs to improve its endgame. The concert finished with Method Man puffing a joint handed to him. Then everyone just sauntered offstage, leaving the sold-out audience without a chance to applaud or request an encore. Can you say "awkward exit"?