Sunday, November 12
Live hip-hop – always a gamble. If the MC is great the sound might be shit, if the production is all good you can bet there’ll be excruciating delays…I’d complain, too, about the crowd being full of white munters, but, erm…
So, I’m a fairweather fan of the live hip-hop show, particularly these days. But I was keen to see The GZA one more time. He’s one of my favourite MCs, one of the key players in the Wu-Tang Clan and I’m a fan – primarily due to the masterstroke that is Liquid Swords and obviously for the role he’s had in a double-handful of Wu-Tang gems too.
Sunday night with a 10pm kick-off, that’s a hard enough sell – but GZA kept the crowd waiting for a full hour – and in that time nothing happened. His DJ walked onto the stage after 40 minutes of west coast bangers playing out in celebration of an east coast idol (?) – and the DJ plugged in his Macbook, fiddled with some chords, checked his mic – announced he needed five minutes and promptly took another 15.
This is bullshit. It should never have been acceptable – but it’s beyond utter contempt, it just seems insulting now. It kills the vibe, fuels the boredom – and the cure for that is extra boozing, which led to at least two fights (the venue’s security dealt with them swiftly). All just ugly nonsense though, not remotely about the music.
So, eventually, just after 11pm, the man born Gary Grice slow-sauntered to the stage. Sure, there was rapturous applause. And yes, he kicked down into come classics from the Wu and from his killer solo album – the early inclusions of Duel of the Iron Mic and Living In The World Today seemed to suggest something of promise, even if it was all a bit lacklustre.
Sure, there were Wu-Tang classics – the crowd got to chant about bringing the ruckus and how “Wu Tang Clan” continues to be “nothin’ to fuck wit’” – and from there Grice trotted out a singalong tribute to Ol’ Dirty Bastard with a karaoke classic-take on Shimmy Shimmy Ya.
At various points The GZA seemed close to showcasing his ‘Genius’ – that inimitable flow, the authority that somehow flows through and rises to the top of an overarching nonchalance…but for the most part this was trace-around, go through the motions pay-check collecting. No need to check his neck, nothing close to hard work on this evening. Just coasting. A bit of the required boasting – and, most disappointingly, his own vocals were drowned out, over and again, by the pre-recorded backing tracks.
There’s something hair-raisingly wonderful about the opening, title track from Liquid Swords. But even that, on this night, felt like a slight dud; like he was only ever interested in aiming for a pass-mark because, hey, that’s all that required.