Photo By Marcella D. Volpintesta. Click the photo for a slideshow of Wu-Tang's set.
Wu-Tang Clan was definitely the talk of Bumbershoot yesterday, with 40-50>"/>
Wu-Tang Clan was definitely the talk of Bumbershoot yesterday, with 40-50 Wu-Tang (and related Clan member) shirts spotted, and overhearing just as many conversations and people spitting Wu verses in passing. I knew their headlining slot at Memorial Stadium was going to be a ceremonious ending to a very long, diverse, and enjoyable weekend of music, so I made it my final destination. No Steve Earle or Ted Leo this year.
Even though I was near the back of Memorial Stadium when up-and-coming Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco first came on stage, the super clean, all-white outfit he was wearing made him easy to spot as he traipsed all over the stage like a ghost from the future.
"We're going to party 'til the Seattle Police Department shut us down," he said to the swelling crowd of teenagers before him, who were sneaking puffs off joints and sips of alcohol out of Camelbak backpacks.
Backed by fellow Chicago MC Jemini, the Grammy-nominated rapper worked the crowd like a seasoned vet, mixing a bulk of his hit-or-miss 2006 debut, Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor and some new material that he calls some "future 2027 shit." In between, he hyped the crowd with hand pumps, "come live" call-and-responses, and "Fuck Bush" statements ("with a cherry on top and the Space Needle up his ass"). Naturally, the crowd's response was unanimously enthusiastic. He reworked his breakthrough skateboard single, "Kick, Push" with a beat change on every verse, and "I Gotcha" and a noticeable political/war agenda on his new songs ("American Terrorist"?). He was a relentless performer, much better live than on record, warming up the crowd to what they were really were there for: Wu-Tang Clan.
A few minutes after Lupe ended, a friend and I predicted how late after Wu would come out after their scheduled 9:30 start. I said 9:52. I got my numbers mixed up. At 9:25, Wu emerged, sans Ghostface Killah and maybe a couple others (from where I was standing, I had trouble telling Method Man and Inspectah Deck apart.) Locking in the crowd with "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothin' Ta F' Wit," and "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'", they followed with a cut off GZA's Liquid Swords, and a Cappadonna joint, before returning to "C.R.E.A.M.", and "Method Man," appeasing the mass of people who know Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) verse-for-verse, word-for-word (myself included).
Throughout much of the set, the music was unfortunately undermined by too much bass or too much treble, and too many microphones, and "Bells of War," one of my favorite tracks on Wu-Tang Forever, suffered because of that.
At Wu's request, the stage lights were shut off, and a sea of lighters and cell phones were cast into the air in tribute of their fallen soldier, Ol' Dirty Bastard. Wu ceremoniously dropped "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," and it truly felt like a moment of worship. "O.D.B.! G.O.D.!"
Afterward, the music became clearer, leading into "Triumph," a Method Man acapella of "Shame on a Nigga" and (I think) "Uzi-Pinky Rings." Method Man worked the crowd like the world's best hype man and strategic marketer at the same time, getting the entire stadium to scream as loud as they could for more music, as well as a new Wu-Tang album.
"Five more, shit, ten more! We'll go all night."
Unfortunately, time was up. As a track from their forthcoming 8 Diagrams album played, the members slowly dispersed, while Method Man gave shout outs to Seattle, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and repeated "Hotel 1000" like a woman-trapping mantra.