Wu-Tang Clan, the rap supergroup, are hardly an old-school collective, yet their 60-minute live set tapped into the jam-in-the-park vibe of rap's origins. Their gritty and aggressive lyrics often are less than festive, yet they were able to transform a sold-out house into a celebration replete with dancing and hand-waving. Despite the conspicuous absence of member Ol' Dirty Bastard, known for out-of-control stage antics as well as surprise disappearances, the presence of eight out of 10 members was a rare treat for fans.
Rapper Method Man and producer/rhymer the RZA lead the crew through songs from their platinum debut, “Enter the Wu-Tang,” their double-album follow-up, “Wu-Tang Forever” (both on Loud/RCA) and the posse’s five-album arsenal of solo material. “Wu-Tang Forever” has chalked up sales of 1.3 million units in five weeks, according to SoundScan.
With uncharacteristic foresight, the venue deliberately undersold its capacity to provide ample room for the crowd. Occasionally garbled lyrics — the result of yell-rapping and too much mike reverb — were hardly a problem for well-versed fans, who shouted back nearly every word in unison.
Wu Tang, which performed for free, hit full-stride in midset. As they took turns dropping verse over sparse beats on cuts such as “C.R.E.A.M.,” their army-size game of lyrical leapfrog conjured up impromptu pass-the-mike sessions at the genre’s roots. Meth scaled a speaker for his solo hit “Bring the Pain,” but house lights came up midsong during the would-be climax.
The gig was the first date of a six-city tour sponsored by “The Wake Up Show,” an internationally syndicated hip-hop radio show. Delicious Vinyl’s WhoRidas were the standouts in a list of openers.