It was 20 past midnight and the diverse, shoulder-to-shoulder mass that had shown up to see the Wu-Tang Clan was growing restless inside Expo Five, a structure that looks like an airplane hangar off South Seventh Street Road. The crowd had already tolerated several unknown rappers — "Limp Bizkit's better!" a fan yelled during one of the opening acts — and as a DJ played the Dr. Dre song "The Next Episode," a disembodied but familiar voice finally came over the speakers, stacked on either side of the stage.
"Ooohhh," Method Man teased. "I got a good mic."
Each set of hands in the venue formed a W, which shot into the air and swayed from side to side. Then Method Man and Ghostface Killah and Raekown — well, everybody expect for RZA — crammed his way onto the small stage and the group tore through "Bring da Ruckus," the first song on the group's 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Then came the second and third songs — "Shame on a *****" and "Clan in da Front" — off that same album. "The energy that you give to us," Method Man screamed, "we gon' give it back to you!" He reminded everybody that Wu-Tang has been putting out music for "17 years." The place went nuts.
Even though seven of the Wu-Tang's eight members were in attendance — and other "family members" stood on stage with microphones, too — it was surprising that the sound was never overwhelming. Masta Killa would step to center stage to deliver a verse, then the GZA would take his turn and so on. Though everybody had a mic, each guy seemed to know when to pipe up and when to hold back. Ghostface Killah spent much of the show lurking in the stage's shadowy periphery. When it was his turn to shine, his distinct high-pitched and (almost) nasal flow proved why his recent solo albums have been better than anything else the Wu-Tang Clan has done in recent years.
Method Man was the star of last night's show, however, the one who provided the energy. While most everybody else in the Clan stayed in their bulky winter coats, Method Man bounded in place like a prize fighter and used a towel to absorb the perspiration pouring down his face. After finishing the song that bears his name — which he rapped while standing on the barricade, before falling into a sea of outstretched hands — he stripped off several layers of clothing and sported a sweat-drenched t-shirt that was so wet you could see the wife beater he was wearing underneath.
It was also Method Man who supplied the evening's humor. "Can I get some weed?" he asked the crowd. People had been sparking joints and passing them around all evening, and a potent cloud of smoke seemed to be suspended in the air. Throughout the show fans chucked plastic baggies filled with marijuana onto the stage, and each time Method Man sniffed the contents, twisted his face into a grimace, gave a thumbs-down, and tossed the bag to the masses. "I need some good weed," he'd say again. "Who got some good ass weed?" (Other Method Man highlights: "Man, Kentucky got some of the most ghetto white people I've met in my life. That's a compliment." Also, this: "Louisville, home of the Louisville Slugger. Ain't that a bitch?!")
After the group performed "Triumph" and its most famous hit, "C.R.E.A.M." ("Cash rules everything around me, CREAM!" the fans shouted), Method Man said that Ol' Dirty Bastard — Wu Tang's ninth member, who overdosed in 2004 — was in the building. Then Method Man brought out ODB's "first born son," who looked and sounded so much like his late father during "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" that it was kind of scary.
As the clock approached 2 a.m., somebody raised the garage-style exit door. "Close that ******* door!" Method Man hollered. "We aren't ******* done!" Even though the guys in Wu-Tang are already in (or are rapidly approaching) their 40s, there was still more to come. And even when the show officially ended, the night seemed far from over.
"Party at the Hyatt!" Raekwon screamed.
Follow me on Twitter: joshuadmoss