Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Wu Tang Clan: Shepherd’s Bush 16/07/2008

The Wu's
The Wu's The Wu's The Wu's The Wu's

Well after some confusion at the stage door with my press credentials and the spelling of my name – basically some jobs worth was debating that the name they had on the list was one vowels difference to my actual name and so wasn’t letting me in.

What the Boomba!!? I cried several times in my head or so I thought, until I realised that the gathering of other press heads, skeezers, Ho’s and other industry wannabees were all looking at me somewhat confused and scared.

Yes! I was vexed. I was there working – doing my job and probably more Hip Hop than everyone there put together and I’m watching all these skinny white chicks getting in for FREE and pulling their mates in [one guy got in on the list under the guise of a gurls’s name Emma what the BBC?] and to look at they were fish out of water – they were just posh indie kids whose old man’s probably got some weight somewhere and blagged ‘em on the GL.

Then I scoped an old familiar face. So I bowl up to this head and a I approach he breaks from his conversation smiles and comes over to me for that manly style hug and respectful touching of fists. Mitchell is one of the Management partners whose been looking after the Wu from the get go and just happens to be RZA’s brother. We met originally many many years ago pre Wu Tang when RZA was part of the Gravediggaz along with Prince Paul who was the one that actually introduced us. I knew Prince Paul from De La and working with Tommy Boy when the came over here on the Daisy’s tour.

He asks all the usual Q & A’s and I go on to explain that I’m now the Hip Hop features and reviews writer for Blues & Soul magazine. He immediately pulls me and my guest, [fellow DJ from Edge FM] DJ Raggs, right through the rabble gathering at the stage door get’s us in to the gig and tells the staff that we’re to have Access All Areas passes – what a result!!

We immediately head for the pit, which is the little bit of no mans land between the stage and the front of the stalls - It’s like a pokey alleyway and is for photographers and press to get up and close with the artists performing. Usually you get to stay for the first 3 songs but it was the 5th before we were asked to scoot. After the pit we head for the stage which is crammed with loads of skeezers all looking to get rinsed by the Wu I’m guessing judging from they’re attire.

Me & Raggs edge our way past the scandalous skanks crew and end up actually on the stage but at the back. So my view now is of the back of the Wu looking out at the audience – could it get any better?... No!

SO by this time we’re 25 mins in to the performance and I’m just banging my head knot to the beats. Ghostface who was also just chillin at the back of stage comes over to me and asks me kindly to move behind a line marked by gaffer tape. I try to but the back stage crew is so thick with skeezoids there’s no place for me to go.

He clocks this and tells me to stand by “their” table which is stocked with Champaigne, Beer, Wine, Water and some green seaweed looking stuff in bags which I couldn’t quite make out but it smelt funny and tasted even funnier – I don’t think I was meant to eat it!

So, Wu rolled through the LP’s in order and performed all the bangers from 36 chambers, Wu-Tang Forever, The W, Iron Flag & 8 Diagrams. I won’t check all the tracks as I’m sure most of you know ‘em already but there wasn’t one track that I wanted to hear that I didn’t hear.

Kicking off with Bring the Ruckus, and then Shame on a N*gg*, followed by Clan in da Front I soon realised that they were performing the tracks in LP order. So I just sat back and enjoyed the ride through the Wu Tang Time Line.

The Wu even managed to go through several racks that featured ODB which I think was a nice touch including the one with Kelis on Vox. It’s good to see that they haven’t forgotten him and even honour his memory still in their live performances.

I set out in my head what I expected and they delivered above and beyond that. As a big supporter of Wu and all their side projects myself, I was more than satisfied with their choice of performed tracks. They were very organised - almost regimented in the way that if any members weren’t actually performing the song at any one time they would stand at the back of the stage until it was their time to spit.

This was good for it gave me an opportunity to chat with Inspectah Deck, Raekwon & Ghostface. There was one point where a plastic glass of beer came hurtling towards the stage – with beer in it I hasten to add – a la at an indie rock concert if the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury is anything to go by and almost hit Method Man. He simply and graciously stepped to the side allowing it to hit the stage floor. He obviously was annoyed to the point where he went and got 2 bottles of water, snapped the lids off and sprayed the crowd with them. He then made a dash toward the crowd and dived into a somersault landing flat on his back on top of the crowd.

He managed to stand up on peoples heads, shoulders and hands then cued their DJ to drop the beats where he just picked up his place in the track and rocked it from right their crowd. The audience were just going nuts by this point. Raekwon Ghsotface and myself were killing ourselves at the antics of this 39 year old rapper. They said he’s still the craziest F***er to work with. There was one caramel skinned sizzler in the front row who was almost crying in ecstasy at the prospect of being trod on by Meth – I remember thinking to myself “shake dem thangs baby” oooh she was a Hip Hop doll indeed and then I remembered that I was both married and working.

I would have to say of all the performers Method Man was the most dynamic by a long shot. I couldn’t really imagine him doing anything else – he’s a born performer and puts everything in to what he does on stage. It’s almost athletic in essence.

The RZA for me though was the one who kept drawing my attention. Despite almost being a polar opposite in comparison to Meth’s stage persona, RZA had almost a regal presence. He’s performance was very precise and exact, he gave me the impression that he’s a bit of a perfectionist.

On the whole Wu impressed me as a live Rap act. Hip Hop artists are very difficult to gauge live because it’s all down to the venue as to what the acoustics sound like and sometimes for me I don’t think big places like Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Brixton’s Academy are always the best for Hip Hop which tends to be bass heavy – I do think that the music gets lost in these buildings and indeed performances are wrongly assessed under these conditions. Smaller venues always are the choice for me like HQ’s and even Jazz Café.

I remember back in the day seeing the likes of Mantronix, Stereophonic MC’s, EMPD, Original Concept, LL Cool J and Run DMC at the Electric Ballroom in Camden and although it’s not exactly a small venue Hip Hop acts worked there really well.

Wu have had a bad rap to coin a phrase from the main stream press in the UK which I find incredulous when they write their review based on the audible quality of the venue as opposed to the lyrical flow or DJ skills or any number of other more valid aspects and bench marks on how best to judge a Hip Hop Live act. I think some of these Columnists from The Times and The Guardian are comparing these gigs to that of live Jazz or a 12 piece funk band which surely is the wrong comparison?

On the Whole for a bunch of rappers out of Staten Island that have been in the game as a collective since 1991 until now and age from 39 – 43 years of age these guys ripped it up as good as if they could have if they were 20 years younger. The energy, the rawness and the hunger are still all too present and I don’t see any reason why the Wu can’t continue doing the do for a good few years to come.

Next time the boys are in town I’d strongly recommend going to see them – they deliver the goods and I can’t imagine them not doing that but the love I saw and felt for the Wu in London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire tells me Wu Tang Clan are Forever.

All photos care of Romain Kedochim. For more visit ROMAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

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