Wu-Tang Clan has performed in Austin a few times over the years. In 2011, they performed at the now-closed Austin Music Hall during SXSW. With Method Man, RZA, and Raekwon not present, the show was lackluster at best. Four years later, they would return to Austin for Fun Fun Fun fest; and then again for SXSW Interactive in 2017. For each of these performances, not all nine members were present; so when it was announced they would be on tour celebrating their 25th anniversary of the Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), there was hope their next stop in Austin would be different.
RZA would take the stage first, hyping up the crowd to lead into the first track of the night, Bring The Ruckus. One by one, the Wu would come on stage to deliver their verse on the track. Ghostface, then Raekwon, and then Inspectah Deck would follow. A few songs into the set, RZA would confirm that Method Man was not able to make the show due to a conflict in schedule. He and the group quickly transitioned to the next track, but not before a collective disappointment by the crowd could be heard. Once again, the full Wu-Tang Clan were not present. Moving past this brief dip in energy, songs like Protect Ya Neck and Wu-Tang Clan Aint Nuthing ta F’ Wit got the crowd back in it. Outside of glaring omissions like Method Man, fans got to hear all of the classic Wu-Tang Clan joints, which is never a bad thing. Crowd favorite, C.R.E.A.M., was one of the highlights of the night, as fans rapped to every word.
Method Man’s absence was perhaps most felt when it came to overall show performance. With a group as large as Wu-Tang, various levels of energy are brought to the show. RZA and Raekwon were the most animated of the crew, while Ghostface’s signature scowl was on full display. GZA, aka Genius, was more subdued when he wasn’t rapping; often hanging back while others performed. Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, and Cappadonna all gave solid performances. None of the members gave the fans lesser versions of themselves, but with group’s most charismatic MC missing from the set, you couldn’t help but feel the the energy and showmanship of group could’ve been amped up a notch.
A standout of the night was Young Dirty Bastard, son of the late founding Wu member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Filling those shoes is no small feat, but he did an excellent job of capturing the essence of his father when performing his verses. From the hair, mannerism, and voice, it was easy to see ODB in him during songs like Shame on A N*gga.
After 25 years since ’36 Chambers,’ Wu-Tang’s popularity is feverish high with this year’s SHOWTIME doc, Of Mics And Men, and the Wu-Tang Clan: An American Saga currently airing on HULU providing a backdrop to the tour. Despite their early struggles, both personally and as artists, Wu-Tang Clan have established themselves as one of the pillars of Hip Hop history. Fittingly, the last song of the night was Triumph; an aggressive posse cut that punctuated the night’s celebration with a final performance by each Wu member.