Last Night: Wu-Tang Clan At Numbers

Wu-Tang Clan Numbers December 12, 2010

Sunday night's Wu-Tang Clan show ended around 2:30 this morning, after five or six openers and more than five hours on our feet. By the time the group went onstage, at around 12:50 a.m., the crowd had waited almost one hour in place, only kept alive by DJ Elroy Boogie's work and the prospect of seeing one of the best collectives in hip-hop... eventually.

There was bitching and moaning, and a few bottles thrown at the stage. Social media was in a lather with people complaining about the late starts and lulls. Fans started leaving, cursing the group, while others hunkered down for the wait. But anyone who has ever been to more than one hip-hop show knows these things don't run on time. It's the nature of the game. You wait it out.

There was a time, years ago, when rock shows were the same way, before curfews and sound ordinances laid the hammer down. The headliner would come on an hour after the last opener, working up the crowd into equal parts exhilaration and stress until the headliner decided to hit the stage. Hip-hop doesn't run on rock time.

iLL LiaD
iLL LiaD

Aftermath arrived around 9:30 p.m. in time to see Nosaprise's opening set, which gave way to Ill Iliad and Jon Black and then scene-maven Fat Tony. The concept of having local openers at touring act shows in Houston is something that we wish we could see more, especially in rock and roll. It exposes artists who may well already have firmly established fanbases to crowds who normally wouldn't see them.

Some bands coming through shun local support for whatever reason, either by what we assume is greed, or wanting to bolster their own touring supporting cats that are traveling with them in vans behind their buses.

If you saw Wu-Tang this morning (it wasn't that long ago) you would have seen a section of Houston hip-hop that is bursting with flavor and aggression. Everyone threw in harrowing sets, including Nosaprise, whose set was more punk than rap, even without instruments.

iLL LiaD came out like a junkyard dog, begging for garbage to be thrown at him, which instigated just a small barrage of empty cups, some straws and, strangely enough, cash. His partner Jon Black was a recent find, helped along the 20 minutes of chaos.

Fat Tony came out for what we thought (haha, thinking) would be the last act before Wu-Tang like a conqueror in a full-length mink coat. He wasn't just a local opener last night, it seemed, he transcended Houston. We've seen Tony a million times before, and last night he was Texas rap. During his handful of tracks from new LP RABDARGAB, he came into his own.

Fat Tony, American Gangster style
Fat Tony, American Gangster style

B L A C K I E's small guest spot with Tony thrilled those of us in the crowd who were already familiar with him. Like we said, most of these folks probably hadn't seen any of our locals before, let alone been at a real live local hip-hop show.

Wu's touring opener, La The Darkman, was a total mood change from the fun Houston shit. He was like a brick wall. There was no audience interaction, and he seemed just pissed that he was there. It was like your favorite teacher falling ill and a veteran substitute being dragged out of bed to lead the class.

There was no personality and it felt generic, unlike the Wu to come. God love the dude, we know his work on record, but damn that was a buzzkill after the H-Town party.


Last Night: Wu-Tang Clan At Numbers

After Darkman, we waited another hour for the Clan. The buses had pulled up in the intervening hour, which was a good sign. We saw harried conversations onstage between the staff and Boogie, and all he could do was keep spinning for the crowd to keep them awake. Five hours of weed and beer isn't conducive to attention spans or staving off fatigue, but good music is.

Wu finally hit the stage, all staggering seven of them a formidable presence in one room. Aftermath has seen most of these guys on their own, but in the altogether it was mind-boggling, like watching an album come to life. Members would come to the fore for their verse and then walk back to the DJ booth.

As Wu opened with "Bring Da Ruckus," the crowd surged towards the stage. Pot smoke, beer, bottles, bodies and cash littered the throng. Method Man lorded over us as the de facto leader of the group, making us wonder what the dynamic is like when he's not around, like his missed date in Dallas.

RZA was absent, making movies in China, and Ol' Dirty Bastard passed away six years and a month before Wu's appearance Sunday/Monday. On one hand, you have fans who say there was no point in seeing the group sans RZA and ODB, which is silly. It seems to us that getting any of these guys in a room together is a reason to throw money down.

GZA (left) and Ghostface Killah
GZA (left) and Ghostface Killah

It was astonishing to take a step back from the stage and take in what was in front of you. It was like seeing the best Yankees roster from the '30s in front of you shagging balls and playing pepper. Sorry for the Yanks reference, but it fits for the Wu. OK, the 2005 Astros, does that work? Or the 1994 Rockets? You see what we mean. Classic.

Most of the Wu set leaned towards 1993's Enter The 36 Chambers, with a few nuggets from the past 17 years strewn around. Any time we heard any of the kung-fu clips from Chambers, the crowd lifted six feet in the air.

ODB's son Russell shot out from the pit at stage left to do a handful of his dad's songs like "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and a too-short cut of "Got Your Money." Boy Jones goes by Young Dirty Bastard, and the 21-year-old does look remarkably like his pop, as Method kept howling, but he doesn't quite have the slurry charm, or at least not yet.

Late night snack: Raekwon the Chef
Late night snack: Raekwon the Chef

By this time we were past 2 a.m point, and Numbers' bars were long closed. Wu kept going, throwing out "It's Yourz," "Reunited" and "Triumph" from 1997's Wu-Tang Forever. Everything started getting abbreviated past closing time, and the crowd was dragging and dreading work this morning, like we were. "C.R.E.A.M." helped play us out into the street and home to bed just barely an eight-hour work shift ago.

For all being at least 40 years of age, the whole clan was firing on all cylinders, without any lag. The only thing that seemed off was the length of the show, and the fact that they didn't share with us whatever it was they were partying with before they came on.

Personal Bias: Method Man's voice is like butter to Aftermath's ears. Last night was the second time he has thrown water on us. That's our thing, we guess.

The Crowd: Hoodies, hoodies, hoodies. And Fat Tony's full-length mink coat. Very American Gangster.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Some of us have to work in the morning, Method Man."

Random Notebook Dump: We think Fat Tony stopped being a Houston rapper last night and gobbled up the whole state. He's Texas, y'all.

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