As the Wu-Tang Clan’s spiritual leader GZA strides into Liverpool, Getintothis Chris Flack found himself snaking his way through the crowds of a sold out shit hot show.
GZA, AKA The Genius, real name Gary E. Grice, is considered the brains behind the Wu-Tang Clan, one of their forefathers if you like. He was there for the first Brooklyn MC wars, he was there when the first record deal was signed and he has been central to much of their work since.
Bringing him to a barn on the North Side Docks is a brave move, one that has worked in some spectacular fashion, especially given the most recent iteration of the Invisible Wind Factory‘s decor and lighting rig.
The place looks immense, suitable for the godfather of New York’s Hip Hop scene. It’s spacey, new agey and filled with smoke, light, and a monster LED screen. Looks alright and it sounds impeccable too. Well played.
The Wu-Tang Clan are New York City rappers in the shape of RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah and a host of others. They are considered to be one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. They’re playing a host of festivals this Summer, if they appear on a list in a field near you, you would be well advised to catch them.
They’re playing in Manchester in just a few weeks if you can’t wait that long. And you shouldn’t miss that one, to be fair. Given that they’re appearing with De La Soul and Public Enemy, that’ll be one hell of an after party.
As a brief aside, one of the funniest gig related tales we’ve been party to involves the Wu-Tang Clan, or at least their production team. A pal of ours worked at an Irish festival a few years ago, taking over a role from a production manager who had left on health grounds at pretty short notice.
They were going through the list of production requirements, checking what was needed where and when, when they discovered the previous manager had agreed, in error possibly, to supply 10 stretched humvees to collect the Wu-Tang Clan and their crew at the airport.
The immediate problem was that there were, in fact, a total of zero stretched humvees in Ireland at the time. No one in Ireland had ever needed to shift the Wu-Tang Clan around clearly. Obviously, this was likely to create a little friction and one can only imagine what that telephone call was like. The end result was a couple of high-end tour buses corralled into use at the last minute. They played a storming set by all accounts, and to a wildly appreciative crowd too. No one was overly bothered about the transport snafu.
You have to imagine the kind of rider that involves 10 humvees, Christ only knows what else was on there, distilled, mountain chilled Icelandic ice water delivered by Peruvian alpacas… Who knows.
The Wu-Tang Clan are that kind of crew, they move like an army and they’re prepared to invade and decimate any space they are given access to. It’s a monster on wheels. The glitzier the better, as you’d imagine.
Hip Hop royalty has its standards.
That’s the stock that GZA comes from, the people who’ve come this far out from town are expecting big things. His second album, Liquid Swords is considered a seminal Hip Hop record, full of funk and intelligence.
GZA doesn’t do guns, girls and drugs, for him it’s more about philosophy, science, the shape of the world, and the planets we spin among. An analysis of his lyrics and rhymes found he holds the fourth largest vocabulary in hip hop. That’s quite the title.
When we arrived there was a queue of about 200 wrapped around Regent Street, this lot were obviously keen. Barely a straggler in sight, though the lack of any kind of stage times might have had something to do with that.
There were a few hundred inside already by the time we snaked through, that’s impressive for 7.30 on any night, never mind a Saturday. You get the distinct impression this one is going to go off.
Nu Tribe, aka COLLECTA from Liverpool, were charged with getting things off the ground after the house DJ threw one final stomping tune into the mix. It’s a hell of a job warming up for this one, not one we envy either.
They went straight into an introduction of sorts, beatboxing their way through the list, their talents and their inspirations, they were certainly up for it, even if some of the punters weren’t entirely convinced early on.
— Andrew Leivesley (@modestleivo) April 14, 2019
It didn’t take long for everyone to warm up, though. Apart from Lucy, our esteemed social media manager and photographer, given that they performed in near darkness. Their set is mostly about their voices, there is very little in the way of background music in the mix, though to be fair they didn’t need the support. Just the beats.
The trio has an incredible charisma onstage, it’s so relaxed it looks almost choreographed, although it’s obviously not, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. They seem to enjoy winding each other up, and that’s okay in our book. Lots of call and response, lots of love, troves of soul and a ton of fun. They left the stage after starting a Wu Wu Wu Tang Wu Tang chant that reverberated around the room. Quite the warm up.
We were then treated to a duo from Staten Island, who played the hype team role with more energy than we’d seen in some time. They paced back and forward, ripping rhymes, and telling tales, revelling in the love that was thrown toward the stage, they responded with more bouncing than you’d see in Anfield.
It’s an infectious thing, though almost indecipherable, given the sheer speed they moved at. We did get lots of politics and given the state of America, they have a lot to shout about and a lot to fit in. We were left wondering what chaos this would bring in the basement room. Here’s hoping for a return, to the substation.
Belter from the GZA there shame no-one knew the tunes 😂 pic.twitter.com/qbSZHWtRxI
— Tom Quick (@tommyqefc) April 13, 2019
His set started with Publicity, rolled into Labels, followed that with Cold World and by the time he got go 4th Chamber there were a sea of hands in the air and a lot of swaying. The Genius was in the house. And he was ably supported by DJ Symphony on deck duties.
— Meyouandus (@Alastair_E) April 14, 2019
Everything he played was clearly laid out to bounce, Shadowboxin made the roof rattle, Crash the Crew knocked empty cans off the bar, it was relentless, there was even a Beatles snippet in the middle of all that. We’re fairly sure there was collective insanity by the time they got to Alphabets.
This was a set full of quasi-political messages, often full on political statements, anger at the world, at the system, at injustice. Knock Knock brings us right back to 2002s Legend of the Liquid Sword, back to the early days and Wu-Tang Legend. The crew on stage were fairly cool, nonchalant even until Knock Knock kicked in.
Bedlam. Utter bedlam.
That was nothing until Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Fabulous five hit the decks. We’re not even sure what happened when Protect ya Neck piped through the PA. It all got a little lost in the madness if we’re honest. We almost missed the new chorus for Hey Jude.
— Andrew Burns (@Andy_B1997) April 13, 2019
Of all the madness and rhyming, the one thing that stuck out to us was the audience, there was everything from the wide-eyed first-year college kids right through to the grey-haired granddad’s, all jumping, dancing and singing together. A remarkable sight. Though it got a little hairy when Manchester was mentioned, though as GZA suggested, fuck that hate, it’s all about love.
DJ Symphony laid down James Brown Give it up or Turn it lose as the punters made their way home, bereft of any scruples they brought in by our judging.
Not a bad night that, not bad at all.
Pictures by Getintothis Lucy McLachlan