At the earlier of two sold-out House of Blues shows, as many as seven full-time members of the Staten Island-based hip-hop crew Wu-Tang Clan, along with a couple part-time players, brought an undeniable sense of passion and energy to the stage and reinforced the group’s reputation for skilled MCs, not to mention its unique lyrical blend of terror and humor.
The group — whose numerous members have faced years of legal run-ins and various other career complications — came together last year amid much reported in-fighting and recorded its impressive fourth album, “Iron Flag,” in the immediate wake of the World Trade Center attack. And it’s clear from the excellent results — the striking album cover art (which mimics a popular and patriotic WWII photograph); the songs’ forceful lyrics of justice, unity and defensive sentiment; and the excellent and diverse vocal performances — that the group draws its strength from adversity.
This Sunset Strip perf included plenty of new Wu-Tang songs, as well as older favorites and cuts from members’ solo albums; all the vocalists got at least one song to take lead (the first show was missing both Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who is in jail, and Method Man, who routinely misses gigs).
The 75-minute set also included lots of different MC combinations and a few songs with as many as eight or nine different vocalists competing for space in the mix. A shiny fat car rim was rolled onto the stage to signal the hands-in-the-air party tune “Chrome Wheels,” while the hopeful “Babies” was dedicated to friends currently behind bars.
The stage was just about full of MCs for “In the Hood,” the opening track from “Iron Flag” and one of the evening’s most crowd-pleasing efforts. “We gotta stop killing our people” was one of the bits of knowledge dropped during this life-affirming number, which bounced along on a dramatic horn sample.