W or the Memory of Childhood

8 p.m. Wednesday night. Consult Wu-Name Generator online, receive new moniker for evening: Sheepish Lord of Chaos. Plug in various friends’ names: Erratic Assassin, Big Gay Mule. Favorite: Ol’ Sweaty, Filthy Bastard. Fun, until several names transmogrify into Erratic Assassin. Leave for concert.

8:30 In line: It’s my friend, the Big Gay Mule! Get frisked within inch of lives.

9:10 Hammerstein Ballroom mezzanine. DJ: “Wu-Tang Clan Iron Flag in stores now.”

9:15 Sheepish Lord of Chaos: “Reading anything good these days?”

Big Gay Mule: “Life: A User’s Manual—Perec. It’s amazing.”

Sheepish Lord: “I tried to read it and abandoned it.” [Pang of guilt]

9:27 DJ notes assorted Wu product. Cheers of “Wu-Tang” start. Crowd has thumbs together, forming W’s with their hands. Think of other groups whose names begin with W. Notice dude in Weezer T-shirt (“Rock Music”). Crowd up here largely white. (Later, during the shoutouts to every municipality in the tri- state area, biggest reaction in neighboring rows is to “Long Island make some noise.”)

9:32 Renewed cheers.

9:40 Everyone stands up.

9:43 Everyone sits down.

9:55 DJ: “Five more minutes.”

10:05 Stage dark. Then: RZA in a Lindros jersey. (Make mental note for chapter in treatise-in-progress, working title Soul on Ice: Afro-Canadian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity.) A photographer weaving around. Ghostface Killah stunning in a red bathrobe, with Yankees cap, huge gold medallion, golden eagle artifact on left wrist. Raekwon with a red cap. Also: someone pacing around in a winter coat. Sound is kind of iffy, but “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit’ ” bracing nonetheless. At a certain point, Big Gay Mule notes photographer and video cameraman capturing each other—a touching circularity.

10:22 Hands form W’s.

10:24 About a dozen people onstage now, aside from the actual Clan. Function unclear. Most intriguing: fellow in the winter coat. Every so often, someone marches a little with the Iron Flag flag. “I wanna know who my real niggas are . . . How many of you smoke weed? How many of you get drunk?”

10:26 Ghostface ice-cream reverie.

10:28 “New York niggas make some noise!”

10:30 Method Man does “Method Man”— that Hall and Oates melody, those slippery-limbed contortions. Terrific! Will fall into crowd at least twice tonight.

10:35 RZA: “It’s like we had a new baby . . . Iron Flag in the stores . . . I need more niggas to go out and get that shit.” (Big Gay Mule: “It’s like an infomercial!”)

10:45 The looped sirens and braying “Mur-dah” can only mean that this is “In the Hood,” off Iron Flag, which I believe is in the stores.

10:48 Raekwon calls for lighters to be lit, dedicates and seems to abandon song to fallen comrades. Genius addresses the sound man, confirming my acoustical qualms: “Fuck that. Fuck that. Fuck that! Fuck that. Fuck that. I’m getting muthafuckin’ pages, ‘Yo man, your mic is wack.’ ”

10:52 The hooky “Uzi (Pinky Ring)” single off Iron Flag (in stores now). But it sounds terrible!

11 By this point there are a lot of people onstage—at least 50, possibly more. The eye starts to lose the Wu in the midst of such dense humanity. It’s like the end of Saturday Night Live, when everyone comes out and waves farewell with a certain self-importance, except imagine if they did it with half an hour to go. RZA: “Iron Flag is in stores.”

11:05 How High movie is in the theaters, Iron Flag is in the stores.” Could there be any doubt that the “Wu World Order is in effect”?

11:10 According to Ghostface Killah, “That was a warmup.” Smells oatmeal; begins oatmeal/Carnation milk reverie. It’s more entertaining than the last 30 minutes have been; he should dictate his memoirs! Instead of Remembrance of Grits Past, asks for 10 women to come onstage and bare their breasts. None appear, perhaps because real estate so scarce. So he starts dancing, knees like rubber.

11:13 “I wish my nigga Dirty was here.” Yes.

11:15 Stirring note from RZA: The Wu has been to “Japan, China, Asia, Africa,” but they’re glad to be back home. “This is the foundation of hip-hop. This is the Empire State. Everything starts in New York first.”

11:19 “Peace and blessings to anyone who lost anyone in the 9-1-1 incidents.”

11:23 Stage is completely full at this point.

11:25 “We outta here. Iron Flag is out in stores right fucking now.”

Sheepish Lord of Chaos (Ed Park)