By Kevin JonesBy the time the two official carriers of the mighty Wu flame graced the stage, the anticipation had already reached a boiling point with chants of "Wu-Tang" and "W" hand signs on full display throughout the packed square. The threat of rain that had been teasing the crowd all day had finally dissipated, and the down-home personality of adored opener Killer Mike (along with the more than a few noticeable wafts of weed smoke) ensured a thoroughly relaxed vibe leading up to the main event, complete with local dancefloor killer Skratch Bastid in tow on the wheels.
Opening things up with a blazing, pace-setting flourish, Raekwon and Ghostface let loose with a tight four-pack of Wu classics, including "Incarcerated Scarfaces," "Glaciers of Ice" and the timeless "Ice Cream." Feeling right at home in front of their adoring legions, the two seasoned vets paced around the stage like the hip-hop royalty they most certainly are, taking rap fans on a trip through countless and no doubt formative musical memories, with the Iron Man playing it cool for the most part behind a much more animated and engaging Raekwon. The Chef, for his part, took time out from the duo's own rundown of hits to show love to T.Dot compatriot and collaborator JD Era, running through their shared cuts before allowing the local MC to spotlight his own recent radio hit "Mount Olympus" to the joy of many of hometown faithful.
Jumping back into their own hit-filled showcase, Rae and Ghost called on some diehard fan firepower to help complete the Wu lineup for posse cut "Protect Ya Neck," with local rhyme-spitting eccentric Mindbender handling the Ol' Dirty Bastard verse alongside an equally amped fellow rhymer who took on the Meth portion. Lyric-masking over-exuberance aside, the two represented their city well, radiating the love and support Raekwon would later return in the form of a surprisingly heartfelt call for unity in the face of the city's recent Eaton Centre shooting. While that event might have occurred just a few coincidental steps away, it certainly felt miles removed from the collective positivity on display in downtown Toronto's largest square that evening.
More choice cuts from annuls would follow during the duo's hour-plus performance, one organizers did well to schedule at 9 p.m. so as to not run into the undesired and unnecessary possibility of having to cut things short. As the show wound down, Rae surprised yet again, instructing the DJ to run Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" in its entirety as part of his continued message of coming together, before wrapping things up with the "Nautilus" break-featuring "Daytona 500."
While there was no final encore, those on hand didn't seem too perturbed; their satisfied smiles confirmed a job well done by the two Wu heroes, who offered a taste of exactly why that collective remains such a pillar in the minds so many hip-hop supporters.