<em>O2 Academy Brixton, London Friday, July 26</em>
Last time Wu-Tang Clan played London, in June 2011, it was a cock-up. Not only did founding members Raekwon, Inspectah Deck and RZA not show, the performance was ropey and fans were left with an uneasy feeling that hearts weren’t in it. So this evening has a lot riding on it. Billed as a 20th anniversary celebration of their debut LP ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ – the record that not only defined the Clan’s career but arguably the genre of hardcore rap itself – this outing is both a celebration of their career and an apology to the UK for previous dodgy performances. It doesn’t disappoint.
Everyone is present and correct: the RZA. The GZA. Masta Killa. Method Man. Raekwon. Inspectah. U-God. Ghostface. As an added bonus, ‘killah bees’ (Wu-Tang affiliates) Cappadonna and DJ Allah Mathematics are here too. They even arrive on time, opening with ‘Bring Da Ruckus’, the track that introduced the world to their vicious strain of NYC hip-hop in 1993.
It’s a proper lads’ night. Raekwon is swigging a bottle of Hennessy. RZA is pouring champagne over the crowd. GZA is pointing his mic like a gat. And the material, overall, is classics-only: ‘Shame On A Nigga’, ‘CREAM’, ‘Protect Ya Neck’. There are blasts from solo projects, such as Raekwon’s ‘Ice Cream’ from ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ and GZA’s ‘Liquid Swords’. And there’s even a medley dedicated to deceased member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, encompassing ‘Got Your Money’, ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ and chart-stomper ‘Gravel Pit’. ODB’s parts are dealt with conspicuous respect by playing recordings of his vocals over the performance, despite recently released FBI files implicating him in three murders. On a new song tip, ‘Family Reunion’ from Wu-Tang’s forthcoming album ‘A Better Tomorrow’ is rolled out with confidence. At one point, Allah Mathematics sticks his feet on his decks to do some scratching. And, by the end, Method Man is crowdsurfing. It’s a triumphant response to three years of bad vibes.