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Amidst minefield of cancellations, Wu Tang swings through Greensboro

by Ryan Snyder

Amidst minefield of cancellations, Wu Tang swings through Greensboro

It all took place in the slums of Shaolin. It was the RZA, the GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa and, of course, the Method Man. At least that was the account of Tron (played by Dave Chappelle) on one of the more famous bits of “Chappelle’s Show.” Here, Chappelle’s character lies in a hospital bed with a bloodied groin after an unfortunate incident involving the Wu Tang Clan (www. wutang-corp.com). But it didn’t happen in any slums this time — instead it was in Greensboro’s N Club and the beatdown was lyrical in nature. The Wu Tang made their appearance last Friday as a part of the 8 Diagrams tour and honestly, it was one of the strangest shows I’ve ever witnessed. Just to be clear: The weirdness wasn’t totally related to the group’s performance, especially since much of their acclaim is derived from each member’s unique, and often abstract, style. Greensboro was lucky to even have them, as both the preceding show in Richmond and the following date in Charleston were both canceled. Instead, it really lay more in how the show started and ended than what happened in between It’s been an ongoing storyline in and of itself regarding which of the eight surviving members actually show up for the shows, as the overly tight production values of 8 Diagrams is a severe departure from the Wu Tang’s usual rough, rugged and raw aesthetic.

As a result, there have been whisperings of internal conflict involving the RZA, who produced the album, and other members of the group over alleged compromises of their notorious style. It was pretty clear that we wouldn’t see arguably the most famous member in Method Man, who is currently involved in his own tour with Redman to promote How High 2 and less likely to appear than Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who died in 2004. Fortunately, the other seven members did make an appearance, along with frequent affiliate Cappadonna, which nearly justified the $40 ticket price. That wasn’t limited to the N Club date, which was actually one of the cheaper tickets on their entire tour. I say nearly because, even though they were slated to take the stage sometime just after 11 p.m., it wasn’t actually until shortly before 1 a.m. that the crowd got its first glimpse of the group. But then again, who is going to insist to the GZA that he put down that Philly blunt and get on the stage? Facial reconstruction surgery is pretty expensive from what I hear. The head of their security detail even had his hand heavily wrapped in ACE bandages and I’m not sure anyone wanted a part of his good fist. When they finally did take the stage, it was like the crowd was sprayed with verbal Napalm. Hands flew up with Ws formed, and in traditional music. They’re playing the Blind Tiger this Friday as a part of the kick-off for the Piedmont Old Time Society. The Piedmont Old Time Society is a informal organization that exists to provide a network for players, dancers and fans of old time music throughout the Triad. Joining them on the bill are fellow string enthusiasts the Nutbush Ramblers (www.myspace.com/ thenutbushramblers) and the April Fools. This is a can’t-miss event for lovers of acoustic, tradition, clearly not in homage to our lame-duck president. People grabbed their Wu Tang logo shirts and popped them in the air, while the Wu came out guns blazing with “Bring the Ruckus.” They ran through their most well-known work with the efficiency of a major-league batting order: Ghostface as the lead-off hitter with the speedy delivery; the GZA giving most of the heavy production from the three-hole; and the RZA rarely taking base, but knocking it out of the park when he did. When they weren’t on the mic, the RZA and the GZA spent some time mugging for my camera, breaking out a bottle of champagne in front of me. After the cork popped during “Incarcerated Scarfaces,” the pair guzzled down the bottle just before the voice track of the deceased ODB for “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” came over the house PA. There was a high level of controlled chaos about it all, with one member cutting off another mid-lyric and the rest of the group sort of meandering about onstage. The rest of the weirdness came as the show ended and it did just that — just sort of ended. While most acts seek to build up a certain degree of tension with their performance and inevitably release it all at once in one climactic finale, Wu Tang’s show just kind of tapered off with one of the most famous posse cuts of all time in “Triumph.” The group stopped performing, but most didn’t exit the stage. Instead, they started simply milling around the stage among the entourage of hangers-on that had slowly accumulated into the dozens over the course of the show. Many were texting on their handhelds or just drinking, completely oblivious to the crowd that was screaming for one more. It was as if the after-party had already begun and the crowd, much of whom were disappointed with under an hour-long performance, had become inconsequential. Regardless of the brevity of the show and the mass of nobodies that saw fit to beg their way past security and onto the stage, it’s still a complete pleasure to see the Wu Tang in most of their glory. They’re one of the most dynamic collection of rappers in existence, with each member possessing an incomparable on and offstage personality. It just doesn’t seem too much to ask for the group’s minutes onstage to exceed the dollars in ticket price.

 

Wu Tang performed at the N Club in downtown Greensboro Friday. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

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