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Concert Reviews:
Wu-Tang Clan raises a glorious ruckus in Sterling Heights

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Saturday, June 1, 2019

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- Not long ago, the prospects for one full-lineup Wu-Tang Clan show -- much less back-to-back appearances in a year -- seemed remote, if not impossible.

But the collective of bona fide hip-hop all-stars, and in some cases legends, has pieced itself together, proving Friday night, May 31, at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill that it's as potent and ever and recharged to, as group leader RZA declared, "live this hip-hop (stuff)."

Encoring its closing-night appearance at the 2018 Movement Electronic Music Festival at Hart Plaza, the Wu-Tang crew was still celebrating the 25th (actually 26th at this point) anniversary of its iconic debut album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)." With a full complement of 10 MCs -- with the late Ol' Dirty Bastard's son Young Dirty Bastard stepping into his father's slot -- the troupe delivered that album in its entirety, entering the stage one by one during "Bring da Ruckus." But Wu-Tang hit full power when Inspectah Deck strode on stage for "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'," the rappers lined across the stage, trading verses with nimble precision and karate-chopping power as DJ Mathematics dropped beats and samples.

The minimal setting -- visuals via a large screen behind the group -- was appropriate, since the show was all about the Wu-Tangers. They may have looked older but time hasn't diminished any of their skills, nor their ensemble instincts. The group stormed through "Killa Bees on the Swarm," "Wu Tang: 7th Chamber," "Can It Be All So Simple," "C.R.E.A.M.," "Tearz" and "Protect Ya Neck" before a crowd that shouted every word back to the stage -- even though RZA and Method Man playfully chided the fans for more energy. It was a very present kind of nostalgia, a testimony to a body of music as relevant on Friday as it was 26 years ago -- maybe even moreso in comparison to a lower grade of rap that pervades today.

Wu-Tang had more than just the album to offer, of course. It filled the rest of the largely fat-free 85-minute show with covers both surprising (the Beatles' "Come Together") and complementary (Rick James' "Mary Jane") and other favorites from the Wu-Tang catalog, including "Reunited," "Rumble," "Ice Cream" and "Gravel Pit." A pairing of Ol' Dirty Bastard tracks, "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Got Your Money," paid tribute to the fallen warrior, and a, well, triumphant "Triumph" that ended with an a capella verse, a verbal salute to Motown Records and wishes for peace.

"Wu-Tang is Forever" declared one of the slides that repeated on the screen throughout the show. We can only hope that's the case for what seems like a renewed dedication to a mothership that's spawned so much incendiary and essential rap music, individually and collectively, during the past quarter-century.

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