SAN BERNARDINO, California — For the past few years, the promise of "Wu-Tang forever!" has evolved into "Wu-Tang ever again?" But all that worrying washed away Saturday when the improbable happened in front of more than 8,000 fans at the Rock the Bells hip-hop fest.
Well, the worrying wasn't entirely absent. After sets from locals Dilated Peoples as well as Chali 2na and DJ Nu-Mark, and a raucous set from Redman, the wait was on. Anticipation was nearly as thick as the smoky air, which turned the overloaded Orange Pavilion into a chronic-scented steam room. Nearly an hour after the headlining set was supposed to begin, relief came. The question "Do you think your Wu-Tang sword could defeat me?" pumped from the speakers as the Clan emerged for another Wu banger with all 36 styles of danger.
That's right, the RZA, the GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, U-God, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna and Method Man all on the same stage for the first time since 2000.
"Bring da muthaf---in' ruckus!" screamed RZA, frontloading the 90-minutes-plus set with the Enter the Wu Tang classics "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'," "C.R.E.A.M.," "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit" and "Shame on a N---a." Unlike some hip-hop crews that can't seem to get out of each other's way in concert, the Clan respected each other's shine and moved onstage and on the mic in perfect synchronicity.
After the 36 Chambers onslaught it was almost as if every Wu album was being played on random, giving each member time for solo joints. "How can I move the crowd/ First of all ain't mistakes allowed," rapped Ironman, a.k.a. Ghostface, a.k.a. Tony Starks, and now a.k.a. Theodore (because, as he explained, he's a thinker and a doer).
Masta Killa and GZA took turns with solo shots before the crowd erupted again for the Raekwon and Ghostface classic "Incarcerated Scarfaces." Ghost, joined by U-God, showed off his signature showmanship with the dare-you-not-to-dance track "Cherchez LaGhost." But of course, this being a family reunion, he unselfishly changed the chant at the end and got the whole crowd singing, "Oooaaaooh, Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang!"
Now, with ODB you never know what you're going to get. "What? Y'all thought you weren't gon' see me?" he questioned the crowd. "I'm the Osiris of this sh--." Taking on his Wu-Tang Forever persona, Osiris, he flawlessly ran through fan favorites "Brooklyn Zoo" and later "Dog Sh--" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." The Dirt Dog took breaks by sitting on a speaker, but given the stifling heat, the crowd understood. He later provided comic relief in the form of his signature crooning, particularly before the boys talked dirty to the girls on "Ice Cream."
Meth, looking quite clean-cut, probably due to his Hollywood demands, didn't disappoint either. Despite recent verbal jabs between him and members of the Clan, he insisted they're like any other family — of course they fight, but it's all love. After playing hype man for his brethren, he took center stage for his "Bring the Pain" and later crowd-surfed through "Method Man."
His brother from another mother, Redman, joined him for "Da Rocwilder," garnering roars from the Cali crowd, which couldn't sing along loud enough for the boys' tribute to locals Cypress Hill. But Funk Doc then respectfully left the stage to let the original Clan members keep it wild for the night.
Well into the midnight hour, RZA asked the audience members if they wanted to go, explaining, "This is gonna cost me another 10 grand to stay up here." The applause from the crowd — much of which had been there for more than eight hours — proved the Wu fanbase doesn't know the word "tired."
The Wu-Tang Clan kept it moving with lyrical skills aplenty from Deck, Masta Killa, and Cappadonna and gave the diehards in the crowd time to show and prove that even the most obscure tracks were known verbatim. They ended with what older followers probably thought was a strange choice, but the largely young crowd sang along appreciatively to The W's "Gravel Pit." At 12:39 it was finally time to get off before RZA was out another 10 G's.
Sanctuary Records plans to release a live CD and DVD of Clan's Rock the Bells set (see "Wu-Tang Clan Reunion Show To Spawn Live CD, DVD"), and as far as another Wu-Tang studio album is concerned, RZA said afterward, "If the fans want it, I think it's possible. Take an MTV poll, see what the people want."
Well, you heard RZA. Here's your chance to tell him what you think. Click here to vote in our poll.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.