GZA, Liquid Swords, but in Chicago. Photo by Erik Abderhalden.
Friday, September 12
GZA has an easy job. On Friday, he performed stone-cold classic Liquid Swords in its entirety, but really all he had to do was press play on that Shogun Assassin sample and let the floodgates open. The audience was psyched to show how much they know: dudes angling for the front to prove who could best recite all the tricky lyrics, impatient spectator-MCs rapping over the intros—welcome to the world’s biggest Wu-Tang karaoke. It was the third time GZA’s performed the album in New York, and at this point the ritual is less a celebration of Liquid Swords and more a performance piece for people who know the album better than GZA: people who grew up in New York circa 1995, people who grew up elsewhere and used it to fetishize New York circa 1995, and the stunning amount of people in who raised their hands when GZA asked how many people were under 25.
GZA, motionless at the front of the stage—standing or crouching—was less a performer and more the vanishing point where the audience directed their energy. And that energy was, of course, boundless, considering all the guest verses on the album that warranted ruckus-causing cameos: Killah Priest, who performed the always-inexplicable “B.I.B.L.E.” (a/k/a the track on Liquid Swords that GZA doesn’t even rap on); a highly energetic RZA, dressed in film-buff hat ‘n’ glasses, stealing the show every time he opened his mouth; Masta Killa, who showed up too late to do “Duel Of The Iron Mic” the first time around (they brought it back for him); and a sparkling, be-sunglassed Raekwon, who rolled in and out like a rock star to rap on “Investigative Reports.”
And that was basically it. GZA did a handful of Wu standards, solo joints, and the requisite ODB tribute, but nothing could replicate the energy of the first half. When he was doing “Animal Planet” or something, a huge chunk of the balcony simply rushed out to catch Raekwon walking out the back. —Christopher R. Weingarten