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Wu-Tang Clan – Apollo, Manchester 25/07/13

Wu-Tang Clan – Apollo, Manchester 25/07/13

26 July 2013, 13:18 | Written by Joe Goggins

Whatever the multiple press releases might tell you, tonight’s Wu-Tang Clan show is by no means a rarity. The group were quite happy to shift tickets under the same moniker in 2010 and 2011; first time around, their ‘reunited in full force’ tagline proved a fallacy, with Method Man remaining in the States to record an episode of CSI, whilst the second performance produced no-shows from RZA, Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, meaning that tonight’s turn at the Apollo – ostensibly in celebration of the collective’s twentieth anniversary -provides the possibility of a genuine hip hop rarity, in the form of a complete reunion of the surviving members.

The entire point of this European jaunt has been to plant a positive image of Wu-Tang Clan in the minds of their fans ahead of the release of A New Tomorrow, the forthcoming comeback record that’s set to constitute the group’s first original output since the decidedly uneven 8 Diagrams back in 2007.

Reliability and punctuality certainly aren’t concepts that go hand in hand with the Clan’s general ethos; their 2010 and 2011 shows down the road at the Academy are cases in point, with the collective arriving onstage over an hour past their advertised stage times on both occasions. This time though, things are different. De facto Clan leader RZA had already spoken of a desire to set things right – “We need to, one time, completely, efficiently, properly, professionally represent our brand. One more time. But this time, showing up on time for press and for concerts and studio. Do it one time, perfect.”

Sure enough, the group arrive only a few minutes late tonight, taking the stage to the strains of 36 Chambers opener ‘Bring da Ruckus’ and maintaining their time-honoured tradition of spraying champagne across the crowd in the process. All eight surviving members – RZA, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa and Method Man – are present and correct, and what follows is the consummate hip hop show – largely chaotic, but undeniably fun.

Despite the forthcoming release of A Better Tomorrow, the classics are in plentiful supply tonight, with most of 36 Chambers aired alongside classic cuts from Wu-Tang Forever and the group’s solo canon, most notably GZA’s Liquid Swords and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

The presence of almost the entire original lineup means that few corners are cut in presentation terms; it had previously been commonplace to skip verses and perform truncated versions of the band’s big hitters to account for absences, but tonight’s only real medley comes in the form of the inevitable tribute to Ol’ Dirty Bastard, which sees the group run through the obligatory tracks from Return to the 36 Chambers – ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ and ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ included.

That aside, Allah Mathematics – taking up his usual position behind the decks – keeps the beats flowing for the most part; the concept of Wu-Tang backed by live instrumentation remains a distant dream at this point, but they’re finally moving in a positive live direction.

Tonight’s venue is the biggest they’ve played in Manchester since they last performed here in 2007, and their rapport with the crowd is striking; there’s the obligatory crowd surf from Method Man during ‘Da Rockwilder’, but even the lesser-known members milk the attention – U-God’s verse on ‘Gravel Pit’ and Masta Killa’s pivotal contribution to set closer ‘Triumph’ serve as examples. It might have taken them twenty years, but Wu-Tang Clan are finally getting their live act together – if the promise of A Better Tomorrow is sincere, we might even see them with a live band one day.

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