The HMV Institute has managed to snag some impressive hip hop artists this year, including Snoop Dogg and Public Enemy, but when it was announced that the legendary Wu-Tang Clan were heading to Birmingham there was a mixture of excitement and disbelief in the air.
When the Clan finally rolled into town it wasn’t exactly what many fans may have been hoping for. Some significant members of the group would not be appearing due to “unforeseen circumstances”. No Raekwon, Inspektah Deck or the group’s leader and producer RZA. Method Man, GZA and Ghostface Killah, however, were all in attendance and wasted no time in getting the packed out, and heavily male dominated, crowd jumping to a hit-packed set.
The many members of the group share rhymes and work as a cohesive unit unlike any other hip hop group I’ve witnessed and it’s more than evident that their years in the game have made them slicker than ever and ready to give fans a true show more than just a rap concert. Only a few songs in and Method Man casually steps from the stage to the barrier holding the front rows back and spits his rhymes into the faces of the people holding him in place before collapsing into the crowd.
Indeed, Wu Tang manage to make the crowd feel like they’re almost as important to the show as the men on stage. Mass word-perfect singalongs to many of the anthems from their debut album prove that this audience have grown up with these lyrics. Bring The Ruckus and CREAM sound absolutely immense and Gravel Pit steps the party vibe up a level or three. DJ Mathematics shows some crazy skills behind the decks, at times using his feet and scratching while wearing handcuffs!
There are peaks and troughs as with most gigs – the newer material not quite managing to sound as significant as many of the older classics, but it’s a minor complaint. On this occasion at least Wu Tang delivered a set which sent their fans home more than satisfied and the missing members were not really missed as much as we all thought they might be.
Words & photos — Steve Gerrard