Popular hip-hop-indeed most pop music today-is based on larger than life egos, persona and presentation. Some acts have stood at rap’s slippery top, only to be quickly replaced by the new flavor of the month. With this fall comes the lessened ability to sell records or pack arenas like they did in their heyday.
It isn’t pretty to watch the bruised ego and lackluster performance of a once top group downgraded to playing club dates. They have lost their larger-than-life quality, and their fleeting taste of pop stardom will not allow them to feel the energy and love that a small, packed club can generate.
But the Wu-Tang Clan didn’t seem to be missing the Target Center when they performed at the Quest March 19. While two members were absent, they still gave a high-energy performance with all the enthusiasm of an up-and-coming act. And although their record sales have chilled a bit in the last few years of their decade-long existence, they retain a loyal fanbase-and arena-level ticket prices. Everyone inside The Quest that night paid a pricey $36.50 to see the Clan perform. Then again, it costs a lot to move and feed eight Clansmen.
The audience roared at the break of every beat and flowed right along to the hits. The Clan fed off this crowded energy. There was no post-pop shoulder shrugs from the Wu-Tang Clan. It was a symbiotic concert at its best.
Wu-Tang Clan is a hip-hop Voltron. Almost all of the nine members who make up the collective have very good rap abilities. Most of them have also released solid solo efforts. But, like Voltron, their true noteworthiness comes when they unite into a being greater than its parts.
The show began with individual members performing songs from their solo works. Fans screamed along to GZA’s “Liquid Swords” and Method Man’s “Bring the Pain.” Once everyone had been properly introduced, when the parts had come together to form a whole, the assembled Clan performed the songs that made them famous.
But the Clan Voltron was missing its legs. The whole group was not present, and this became the stumbling point in an otherwise great night. Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Raekwon the Chef, two of the more noteworthy Wu-Tang members, were no-shows. ODB has the “currently incarcerated” excuse, while Raekwon was simply unaccounted for. Their absense proved awkward, especially when Wu member Ghostface tried to lead the crowd in a tired rendition of ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” The results were not pretty. Both absent members share prominent parts in many Wu hits, and that absence resulted in the remaining members rapping a few verses of a well-known song before the DJ cut the track. It was a jarring and disappointing practice that at times was also kind of a teaser. No one paid to hear just two verses of “Shadow Boxing.”