Wu-Tang Clan

Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Vancouver BC, June 23

Photo: Sharon Steele

BY Leslie Ken ChuPublished Jun 24, 2019

On Sunday night, the 34th annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival hosted legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The festival welcomed a packed house to witness a high-energy show featuring every member except Method Man: RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon, Masta Killa, Cappadonna and Mathematics all made it across the border; even Young Dirty Bastard made the trek, to fill in for his late father, Ol' Dirty Bastard.
Wu-Tang Clan opened with a trailer for Cut Throat City, an upcoming heist film directed by RZA, reminding fans of their de facto leader's multiple talents. Of course, the Abbot got special focus — or rather, he took it, as he instructed fans to throw up the Wu-Tang "W" with their hands and chant "Wu-Tang forever."
As accustomed as Wu-Tang are to doing things on a grand scale — be it their albums or sheer number of members — instead of storming the stage all at once, they appeared one at a time, as their respective verses approached. The Clan began their set by performing their genre-changing 1993 debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), in full — the first time they've done so in Vancouver. Thus, Wu-Tang opened with "Bring da Ruckus," and indeed, they brought the ruckus all night.
Instead of each member weaving in and out as they traded verses, the members dog-piled their lines in a frenetic display of dense beats and ceaseless energy. Young Dirty Bastard was the most fired up of all the members. As he tackled "Shame on a N----," pictures of ODB appeared onscreen, including the iconic cover art of his 1995 solo debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.
Unfortunately, YDB's mic was turned low compared to everyone else, who was cranked. (Despite that, Ghostface Killah repeatedly called for even more volume, along with darker lighting.) Although nothing pleased fans at the Queen E more than "C.R.E.A.M." and "Protect Ya Neck," they were more than ecstatic to hear classics beyond those of 36 Chambers, too. "Killa Beez," "Ice Cream," "Reunited," and a selection of ODB cuts ("Brooklyn Zoo," "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," and "Got Your Money") were unsurprising pleasers.
After RZA acknowledged the crowd's diverse ages and ethnic backgrounds, the Clan even threw in a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together."
It would have been enough if Wu-Tang Clan ended with "Triumph," symbolizing the often tumultuous group's ability to continue rallying for high-profile shows like this one, but they pushed further with a medley that revisited lines from "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya."
Finally, Masta Killa congratulated the audience on Canada's own triumph — Toronto's first NBA championship — before bowing out with "Tical."
Wu-Tang Clan set a high bar for the rest of the performers at this year's TD International Jazz Festival. But with another eight nights to go, and a lineup that features other heavy-hitters including the Roots and jazz legend Herbie Hancock, there's plenty of talent that could clear that bar. Protect ya necks, Wu-Tang.

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