Wu Tang Clan At Kentish Town Forum

In the summer of 1997, a group of nine individuals from New York declared to the world that there music is and always will be forever.

A declaration that has stood the test of time and held firm, a cliff that has never eroded in the face of the bleakest of tragedies, the grittiest of controversies and the avalanche of rappers that have tumbled down its peak, laying broken, bruised and buried under the Wu Tang discography.

Wu Tang has long since evolved from a nine man super group into a continent spanning hip hop empire, turning everything it has touched along the way into gold. Wu Tang’s infamous emblem, the symbol of an unbreakable brotherhood and hip hop artistry now lost to the fake commercial rap that has sadly come to dominate the land were Wu Tang’s iron flag once proudly stood, is now ingrained into popular culture.

The original members of Wu Tang have all since embarked on successful solo careers in music, production or film. It seems no modern medium is without some Wu Tang DNA, so it was with great pleasure that I got to see five of them live at the HMV Forum last Saturday.

Yeah you heard me right, only five ninths of Wu were there. Inspectah, Raekwon and RZA couldn’t make it due to some overseas business apparently, and it’d be pretty difficult for the late great ODB to put in an appearance. But at least Ghostface was there, a sentiment shared by the entire audience, and besides; any real fan knows Method Man is the spine of a good Wu show, and believe you me there was plenty of Meth to go round later that night.

As I approached the venue I could smell the lingering taint of green in the air, a smell I dare say warmed my heart.

Masses of excited hip hoppers lined the streets, as I made my way through and eventually found myself in the queue for guest list tickets. Without a battery bar to my phone, therefore unable to contact my fellow Wu scholar for the evening who had my ticket, I pleaded my case.

After much deliberation by my hastily assembled court, I was stamped and allowed entrance where I had the momentous task of finding my friend amongst a sea of sweaty soldiers. Luckily he came to the front soon enough and we made for the smoking area for a much needed pre gig joint.

As soon as my fire hit the paper, I found myself a bright flame amongst a swarm of moths. Stoners from all over the world now rolled out their finest anecdotes, in a concerted effort to sway the spliff from my blessed right hand, exploiting stoner etiquette to the highest degree.

I left the last two tokes with the nearest hyena and made my way inside the venue where a buzz had started to form.

My friend demonstrated his self acclaimed “knife through butter” technique for quickly into the belly of the beast without upsetting any beehives. In short, he got us to the front, real quick.

With a million different body odours uniting in solidarity to form a collective stank, my senses quickly decided that the mosh pit wasn’t the best place for me to soak up The Forum’s ambience.

Buzzing around the Kentish Town venue, testing spots for their energy levels and view of the Wu, I settled for a perch just above the pit that offered a panoramic view of the entire stage.

I arrived just in time as the Wu entered the stage in unison to the drop of “Bring the Ruckus”. Sadly, I didn’t even know what song there were doing until halfway through, as the sound quality was abysmal.

For most of the night, I couldn’t make out songs let alone lyrics. The bass dominated the venue with a selfish ferocity, as strings, pianos and high hats were left voiceless among this big sonic bully.

This was my first visit to the HMV Forum and quite probably my last, as I was told of countless gigs that have been mutilated under the shaky scalpel of their horrendous sound quality by my surrounding Wu fans.

Eventually, I made my peace with this and accepted tonight wasn’t going to be a nostalgic sing along of Wu hits over the years; rather a test of their ability to move the crowd with or without decent sound quality.

Bored with the musical fare served up, I began scanning the stage from my all seeing perch to observe the stage dynamics and chemistry within the band.

And I can tell you Wu Tang are still nutin’ to fuck with.

Even under such appalling conditions these hip hop legends, lead by Method Man, still managed to tear the roof off The Forum.

Usual crowd pleasers Gravel Pit, Brooklyn Zoo and Shimmy Shimmy Ya amongst others were performed admirably, yet the absence of Rae, Rza and Deck made some of the tracks less then compelling.

To my joy Masta Killa Played “No Said Date” off his album of the same name. As one of the more underrated members of the clan, but a personal favourite of mine, this came as a very pleasant surprise although the arena didn’t share my enthusiasm. By the end, I was hanging halfway off the balcony miming along to every word while looking Killa directly in the eyes; trying to illicit some sort of reaction out of him.

And I’m sure I got a half hearted salute, then again I was very stoned.

Method Man was the star of the night though, jumping around like a child high on sherbet; although I’m sure that’s not what he was high on. Draining his bodily fluids and energy for the pure enjoyment of the crowd, Method ignited the other member’s fire with his banter and body language; getting the clan animated and saving Wu from a failed gig,

Gza however is not the young stallion he used to be. Through most of the night he seemed as if he didn’t even want to be there; barely focusing on the crowd, preferring to stare at the edges of the stage and performing the most half heated adlibs I’ve ever heard. Gza would have looked more at home with a rocking chair, slippers and a smoking pipe.

I didn’t expect him to perform with the same intensity as his younger years, but it seemed like Gza had slipped into early senility at the grand old age of forty five.

Ghostface Killah was clearly off his head on something. Either that or he just decided to take the piss out of the audience for the entire show, going round in circles most of the time with his ass to the crowd. Although looking back, I now see it was such a Ghostface thing to do. So in a strange way, he didn’t really disappoint.

The rest of the members were just there, but it was Method Man who really connected with the crowd. As well as crowd surfing a number of times throughout, he even dared to stand on the crowd themselves; performing one of his hits whilst elevated high in the air by his legion of disciples.

Apart from this tomfoolery, there was little else that brought the gig to life. For which I blame the shoddy sound engineer at HMV Forum 100%. Having said that, the crowd left ecstatically happy; so maybe all the Wu needed was a little bit of tomfoolery anyway.

You know you are legends when you pull off a good gig without decent sound quality, which is exactly what the Wu did.

Some final banter around Ghostface promoting his twitter account, and Method declaring all social media as bullshit, the show ended and the masses exited the forum en masse.

Me and my partner in hip hop spoke less on the actual show and more about Wu’s musical legacy as we left, with similarly passionate discussions breaking out all around me. In the midst of our reminiscing, I looked up and could almost see the traces of the Wu emblem in the sky; a reminder of their previous domination and the effect their music has had on millions of people throughout the world.

Kareem Ghezawi

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June 2011
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