Wu-Tang Clan delivers in Movement headlining spot
The group -- yes, all members -- performed its debut album, 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers,' and more during its closing set at Movement on Monday
Detroit -- Wu-Tang Clan closed out the weekend's three-day Movement festival with a spirited, high-energy set that toasted the group's 25th anniversary.
The collective's 85-minute performance answered several lingering questions: Yes, the whole group showed up, and even brought along Wu-affiliate Cappadonna; yes, they showed up on time; and yes, Wu-Tang Clan can still feel vital in 2018.
And yes, having a rap group with no relationship to techno music does make sense headlining Movement, the Memorial Day weekend electronic music festival that has entertained an open door policy for musical styles since its earliest incarnations. The Wu's performance closed out a weekend that saw the fest unfold under glorious weather, even if temperatures reached into the 90s and left some a little sweatier than expected.
If purists were upset by the Wu's booking, they were drowned out by the fans in Wu-Tang shirts who threw up W symbols with their hands as the group took the stage at just after 10:30 p.m. on Monday. And if they were put off, they had several other stages of music to choose from; Dubfire was on at the Pyramid Stage, and Diplo, the electronic music superstar who was perhaps the biggest name on the weekend's lineup, was at the nearby Red Bull Music Stage, performing his own mix of hip-hop and electronic music for a sizable crowd.
The Wu had the spotlight, however. And they delivered.
The New York rap group's members hit the stage one by one, beginning with a champagne spraying RZA and Inspectah Deck, as they doled out verses on "Protect Ya Neck," the 1992 single that started it all for the Wu. Soon the whole Clan was on stage -- Deck, RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah (looking more buff than he has in recent years), U-God, Raekwon, GZA and Masta Killa -- and they took turns on the mic, slicing and dicing their way through "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)," the group's immortal debut album.
Method Man, perennially the most charismatic and energetic of the Wu's delegation, frequently stepped out front during the set, performing dance moves that looked as though he was trying out for the Four Tops. The other members of the group hung around in various pockets of the stage, some sipping drinks (U-God carried a small plastic cup with him, while Raekwon and RZA chugged from bottles) while waiting for their turns to rock the mic.
"Enter the Wu-Tang" was given a full presentation, from "Bring da Ruckus" to "Tearz," but there was plenty more to go, as RZA announced at the album's close, "we gonna have some fun." The group then took turns filing through various individual and group cuts.
This loose format allowed the group members to shine on their own and created an on-stage mood of free association. It felt natural, fun even, and put the MCs in a spontaneous space where they seemed hungry to take the spotlight and perform not only for the crowd, but for each other, and the group's camaraderie was evident. (Cappadonna had several stage-stealing moments and may have shared co-MVP honors with Method Man.)
After GZA took on "Liquid Swords" and various MCs split up their verses on full-fledged Wu tracks like "Reunited" and "It's Yourz," the group paid tribute to the late Ol' Dirty Bastard before tackling "Triumph" as a whole. (Ghostface performed his verse from behind a Guy Fowlkes mask borrowed from an audience member.)
"Gravel Pit" followed, and as Method Man prepared to hype the crowd with "Da Rockwilder," the music was abruptly cut, followed quickly by the group's microphones. It was midnight, and the festival has a hard curfew; Wu-Tang may be forever, but that doesn't mean it's more powerful than the threat of fines.
Earlier in the evening, DJ Premier led the crowd at the Red Bull Music Stage through a 75-minute hip-hop sermon which touched on old-school hip-hop and featured tributes to the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, the Notorious B.I.G., Nate Dogg, Joe Cocker, 2Pac, Mobb Deep's Prodigy and Guru of Premier's own Gang Starr. "Classic!" yelled Premier as he worked his way through sampled songs, seguing into the hip-hop songs that made them famous. Looking on from side stage were a pair of notable Detroit hip-hop figures, Ironside Hex and Boldy James, as Premier lifted Detroit in hip-hop.