It was a quiet Sunday night in New Haven around Yale University – until the Wu-Tang Clan arrived to tear the roof off of Toad’s Place. After a three-plus hour set of old school hip hop by DJ Buck of Hartford’s Hot 93.7, and three songs by Wu-affiliate Lounge Lo – which seriously tested the standing crowd’s patience – the New York City-based crew finally hit the stage around 11:35 p.m.
Opening the show with the hardcore track "Wu-Tang Clan Aint Nothing t F*ck Wit," the hundreds in attendance pushed and shoved closer to the stage. Women seemed to gravitate toward Method Man, who is to the Wu whatPaul McCartney was to the Beatles.
In addition to being the favorite of the ladies, Meth is also the most energetic member of the clan. Fifteen years after Wu-Tang’s debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Method Man remains as youthful and limber as ever. He moved his legs and arms to the music like he was made of rubber.
He was the standout performer. Bouncing around like a 6-year-old who drank his father’s stash of Red Bull, Method Man made the rest of the clan look like they were standing in quicksand. If not for Meth, it wouldn’t have been the interactive show that it was. On more than one occasion, he sprayed the crowd with water from his water bottle, he slapped hands with Wu fans long before the show was near being over, he balanced himself on top of the barricade at the front of the stage with the help of fans’ arms, he directed everyone to make a "W" sign with both hands and put it in the air. Toad’s Place being an intimate venue, Method Man made it his own personal jungle gym. He swung on a pipe above the stage. He stage-dived. He walked on concert-goers’ hands 15 feet out from the stage so he could hang from another pipe closer to the bar area. You never knew what he was going to do next.
In addition to the absence of Ol’ Dirty Bastard – he passed away in 2004 – the clan was also without RZA, the rapper/producer often considered the mastermind of the crew. It was never explained why he couldn’t make it, but it’s no secret several Wu-Tang members were upset with the beats he came up with for the group’s new album, released in December, titled 8 Diagrams. The album – the group’s first in six years – has been criticized for being too different from the sound – gritty production – that defined Wu-Tang in the early to mid-90s. Raekwon has voiced complaints about the album’s mellower songs and production, which relies heavily on instrumentation ("RZA’s trying to create too much of an orchestra," said Raekwon in an interview with Miss Info of New York’s Hot 97). In addition, Ghostface Killah appears on only four tracks of 8 Diagrams and is totally absent during the last 45 minutes of the album. Strife within Wu-Tang isn’t limited to creative differences. U-God is suing the RZA-controlled Wu-Tang Music Group for $170,000, for alleged non-payment for his work on 8 Diagrams.
With all that being said, Wu’s January 13th appearance at Toad’s was more of a "Wu-Tang’s Greatest Hits" show. The crew didn’t perform one song from 8 Diagrams. However, Ghostface got to do a cut – "Walk Around" – from his new album The Big Doe Rehab, which, like 8 Diagrams, also hit stores last month.
While Wu-tang affiliate Streetlife filled in for RZA on certain songs, Method Man was the first to fill in for Ol’ Dirty. It was only fitting since Method Man is the craziest of the bunch now that Ol’ Dirty is gone. On "Da Mystery of Da Chessboxin’ " Method Man did his best to do Ol’ Dirty justice, especially on the classic part of the verse that goes: "Rappin-in is what’s happenin’/ Keep the pockets stacked and then/Hands clappin’ and/ At the party when I move my body/Gotta get up and be-eeeee somebody!"
The Wu-Tang Clan kept the crowd happy with a ton of hits, alternating between group tracks and some of the greatest songs from various’ members solo albums. In the year 1995 alone, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty and the GZA, all released their debut solo albums. These albums ended up being the best of their respective solo careers. The clan treated the crowd to an assortment of ‘95 gems, including the sing-along favorite "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" (from Ol’ Dirty’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version), "Duel of the Iron Mic" and "Liquid Swords" (from GZA’s Liquid Swords) and "Ice Cream" (from Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx).
Of course every so often between songs, the Wu-Tang Clanmade the crowd participate in a call and response of "Wu! – Tang!, Wu! – Tang!, Wu! – Tang!" The Wu’s set list also included classic group cuts like "Bring Da Ruckus," "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man," a crowd favorite from the clan’s first album; "It’s Yourz," off the second album, Wu-Tang Forever; "C.R.E.A.M.,"a cut from the first album whose title was short for Cash Rules Everything Around Me; and "Reunited," off of Wu-Tang Forever. The Wu-Tang Clan made sure not to forget another track off of Wu-Tang Forever, "Triumph," many people’s favorite song off that CD.
It is best remembered for an amazing opening verse from Inspectah Deck, although everybody shines on the track. Deck kicks it off: "I bomb atomically/Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses/Can’t define how I be dropping these/Mockeries/Lyrically perform armed robbery/Flee with the lottery/ Possibly they spotted me/Battle-scarred shogun/Explosive when my pen hits/Tremendous/Ultra-violent shine blind forensics/I inspect view through the future see millennium/Killa Beez sold fifty gold sixty platinum/Shacklin’ the masses with drastic rap tactics/Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths…"
Method Man also hit the crowd with the sinister sounding "Bring the Pain" from Tical, his 1994 solo debut. Later in the night, he had the place going nuts with the dance-inducing "Da Rockwilder," a club favorite off a joint album he did with Redman. Even Masta Killa, who has a new album out – Made in Brooklyn – was given a solo moment in the spotlight. He did an A Capella version of the title track off of his 2004 CD, No Said Date.